‘The Lincoln Lawyer’: The Reviews Are In!

Should viewers flock to Matthew McConaughey's legal drama? The critics weigh in.

Matthew McConaughey’s “The Lincoln Lawyer” joins a crowded field of box-office newbies this weekend — including the thriller “Limitless” and the sci-fi comedy “Paul” — but the top B.O. spots are nonetheless likely to go holdovers: “Battle: Los Angeles” and “Rango.”

While McConaughey’s return to legal drama, following 1996′s “A Time to Kill,” has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, the actor simply doesn’t have the box-office clout he once had, especially outside the rom-com wheelhouse in which he’s been swinging for the last five years. Yet in revisiting legal territory, McConaughey seems to have found a winner. Critics have cheered the film’s expert handling of genre material and its star’s winning onscreen presence, even as they’ve often dinged the story for stumbling at its conclusion. Read on for more “Lincoln Lawyer” insight from the pros.

The Story
“The story, and there’s a lot of it, nicely condensed from [Michael] Connelly’s page-turner best-seller, largely turns on a case that looks like a slam dunk or, as one of Mick’s [McConaughey's] bail bondsmen, Val (John Leguizamo), insists, a jackpot. A man (Ryan Phillippe) did or did not beat up a woman, and his Beverly Hills grizzly mama (Frances Fisher) has the right get-out-of-jail card: a fat bank account. The client, Louis Roulet, insists on his innocence, and Mick takes the bait and the money (the same thing). Complications ensue. Mick works the case and chases leads, helped by an investigator (William H. Macy) and dogged by cops with grudges (Bryan Cranston and Michael Paré). Everything looks pretty clear-cut until it doesn’t.” — Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

The Performance
“McConaughey nails it as attorney Mickey Haller. He’s a little more clothed than usual, a little more landlocked, but he’s once again the sort of gleaming and disreputable bum that he plays best. … There’s a languid and cocksure ease to McConaughey’s performance that harks back to his first go as a lawyer, in the John Grisham thriller ‘A Time to Kill.’ — Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle

The Direction
“Director Brad Furman gives ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ a down-market, retro patina, reminiscent of such washed-out classics as ‘Harper’ and ’52 Pick-Up’ and, more recently, ‘Out of Sight’ and ‘Jackie Brown.’ Granted, he exhibits a weakness for hand-held shaky-cams to convey a jangly sense of spontaneity, but for the most part he wisely lays off style for its own sake, staying out of the way to let Connelly’s quirky, vividly drawn characters carry the story.” — Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

The Dissenters
” ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ gets off to a promisingly ambiguous start, but it takes a turn for the shrill and melodramatic with the arrival of Michael Paré as a cop unafraid to shout his disapproval of McConaughey’s questionable ethics. From that point on, the film devolves into the cozily predictable world of TV legal dramas, abandoning the moral uncertainty of its opening scenes for the benefit of a villain so comically over-the-top in his evil, he might as well be theatrically twirling a mustache and tying a damsel in distress to train tracks.” — Nathan Rabin, The Onion‘s A.V. Club

The Final Word
“[N]o great surprise here that ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ turns out to be superior piece of crime storytelling with some characters clearly designed for recurring roles (in other novels and perhaps other films should this one do well) while others are designated for showy guest appearances as larger-than-life evildoers or tough-guy eccentrics. The film is only ‘superior’ though, not great. The themes feel shopworn and devotees of crime fiction can point to the any number of antecedents for these characters.” — Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Lincoln Lawyer.”

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