I have read almost all of John Grisham's novels and seen almost all of the film adaptations that have followed. If you have too, you might be tricked into thinking that you have seen The Lincoln Lawyer before.
And yet it is not even adapted from a Grisham novel. The original text, which I haven't read but have made a mental note to do, is by Michael Connelly. Apparently a lot of it doesn't make the cut here, but that doesn't stop this from being an engaging, entertaining legal thriller.
It stars Matthew McConaughey, seen here on top 'A Time To Kill' form, but this time as smart-arsed legal whizz-kid Michael Haller. Michael gets bad people off, if you'll pardon that kind of expressionism, meaning that he gets people out of jail terms that they really should have to serve. In that sense he's a sort of anti-hero, but trust me by the end you'll be rooting for him in the courtroom.
The film is so titled because Haller works mostly from the back seat of his Lincoln. That's a car for the uninitiated (like me before I knew of this film) and in all honesty, not enough is made of it's use for legal chicanery to justify naming the entire shebang after it. The best use of the vehicle comes when Haller is negotiating with a group of very hairy bikers. It's all set up to project an image of devil-may-care, maverick law practise. You're not supposed to like Haller, yet.
Not that is until he starts the defense of Louis Roulet (like the wheel, he announces wrongly), played by Ryan Phillipe. He's a rich kid accused of the brutal assault and rape of an expensive prostitute. Why does a rich kid need to be using prostitutes? Those with money tend not to need it, don't they? Anyhow, it doesn't take long before we realise that Roulet is guilty, and we start demanding that our man Haller do something about it. At this point I began wondering about Haller. He can't tell anyone that Roulet has confessed to the crime, and a much worse one to boot, because of lawyer-client confidentiality. Yet rather than walk away and let Roulet find himself another defender he carries on, performing brilliantly considering the amount of alcohol he has consumed.
All of which leads to a mildly surprising and slightly less than mildly satisfactory ending. This film is not a classic but there is much to enjoy in McConaughey's return to form, from the all-too-short involvement of William H Macy as the investigator who sniffs out the details of Roulet's involvement in the grisly crime, to the woefully under-used but permanently smiling Marisa Tomei as Haller's ex-wife and mother of his young daughter.
They're still friends. Well, you'd want to stay in Marisa Tomei's good books.