March 19, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Worth a ticket.


It’s a little mysterious that Michael Connelly’s trim, twisty crime novels have so rarely hit the screen. Perhaps it was the tepid reception received by Blood Work in 2002, unfortunately one of Clint Eastwood’s more dismal films of the last decade. Or just the usual horror stories of movie industry development. In any case, THE LINCOLN LAWYER is an imperfect but sturdy piece of work that could well lead to more Connelly adaptations.

Lincoln Lawyer is based on Connelly’s second-tier book franchise, about the cynical defense attorney Mickey Haller (first tier is occupied by LAPD detective Harry Bosch; in the Connelly universe, Bosch and

Haller know each other and have co-starred in each other’s books). Haller’s gimmick, and the explanation of the title, is that he prefers to stay constantly on the move, doing his between-court work in the back seat of a Lincoln sedan rather than an office. In this entry, Haller (played by Matthew McConaughey) is asked to represent rich boy Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), accused of beating a prostitute. It looks like an easy payday, but of course nothing is as it appears to be, and the story takes several satisfying turns.

It would be nice if the film didn’t look so much like the pilot for a TNT series (director Brad Furman, in his first Hollywood movie, overdoes the close-ups and shows limited visual style). Most of the cast, though, is very strong: Marisa Tomei as Haller’s ex-wife who happens (of course) to be a DA, William H Macy as his investigator, cops in the persons of Bryan Cranston, Mikaela Conlon and Michael Pare, Josh Lucas as opposing counsel, John Leguizamo as the local bail bondsman, and Margarita Levieva as the victim of the crime. The conspicuous exception is McConaughey–not that he’s bad, but this extreme Los Angeleno (the character’s dad was Mickey Cohen’s lawyer) was never meant to have a thick Texas accent, and Haller’s slyness and subtlety is somewhat beyond McConaughey’s’ powers (when he’s calculating tactics, it’s not that you can see the wheels turning in his head so much as you watch his windmill rotate). Nevertheless, screenwriter John Romano does a good job at compressing the complicated story into a tidy 2 hours, and the picture buzzes along. Although the film is predicted to have a mid-level opening, it should hold its place in theatres for a few solid weeks and live for years on cable and video.


(THE LINCOLN LAWYER – Relativity – 119 min. – Director: Brad Furman – Script: John Romano (based on Michael Connelly’s novel) – Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, John Leguizamo, William H Macy, Josh Lucas, Frances Fisher, Bryan Cranston, Michael Pare, Mikaela Conlon – Wide Release)

–Mitch Salem

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."