Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Lincoln Loser

There are movies that you want to be good with all your heart. Maybe they've got a great cast. Maybe they feature the comeback performance from a familiar star who's ventured off their strong career path after early promise. Maybe the source material is strong. And maybe they've got all these things and they still fail, disappointingly.

Sorry, Ryan. This review's gonna be a hard one for you.
The Lincoln Lawyer is exactly that: a sad, disappointing failure.

I am such a huge fan of A Time to Kill and, more specifically, Matthew McConaughey's performance in the film that when I saw the oft-shirtless actor was starring in another courtroom film, I was thrilled. It'd be a return to form! He'd recapture the magic of his brilliant Jake Brigance!

And to be fair, he did--McConaughey gave a brilliant performance considering what he was handed. Unfortunately, he wasn't handed much worth writing home about. This soggy, overdone, overstuffed film doesn't bring anything new or exciting to the world of film and manages to screw up the more familiar elements by becoming repetitive and half-baked.

The central conceit is that McConaughey's amoral attorney Mickey Haller is called to represent a rich boy accused of sexual assault (played by Ryan Phillipe, who can't seem to channel his rich brat style into a strong performance here). He's soon caught in a much bigger, more convoluted web thanks to the client's lies, which forces Haller into a moral bind while dealing with more angry detectives than you can count (the most infuriatingly familiar of which is played by Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston--he's quite angry for someone with so little backstory) and his ex-wife, a prosecutor who loves to nag him (played with gusto by Marisa Tomei--it's sad she's got so little to do other than be irritating).

Obviously, the story has plenty of twists and turns--too many, one might say. I counted four or five possible ending points before reaching the real ending. The screenwriter clearly figured more underdeveloped characters was better than fewer developed ones, which led to many, many loose ends needing tying up at the end of the film. But you'll be shocked at how little you care--after all, these are characters with absolutely no real introduction or history to them. In fact, by the end of the film you're more bored and annoyed than anything else.

It's a shame, this could have been a really fantastic character piece if the screenwriter had allowed it to be or the director of photography had stopped shaking the camera so damn much and captured the subtleties of McConaughey's acting. But this is a movie filled with missed opportunities for greatness. Instead, it's not even good--it's just a big disappointment. C-

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