Despite the fact that it managed to showcase more or less all of Michael Connelly’s bad habits in a single book, The Lincoln Lawyer managed to be a fairly engaging read, thanks to two nasty plot twists and an entertainingly corrupt(ish) character for the lead
The Lincoln Lawyer is a textbook example of how not to adapt a book. While it does nothing egregiously wrong on the surface, it just manages to make everything slack and less interesting. Given that the source text was already pretty vanilla to begin with, you had better believe that this takes some doing.
The Lincoln Lawyer follows the title counselor Mickey Haller, who ends up defending a rich kid from charges of attempted murder and sexual assault. Matthew McConaughey plays, Haller and believe it or not, I didn’t hate the casting when I first heard it (Once again the fact that I didn’t really have that great of a passion for the character probably helped). Haller is after all a slickster, someone who survives and operates by greasing palms, stacking the deck and generally acting disingenuously. McConaughey’s surface charm, slightly curdled after a long well documented string of just plain not giving a fuck, could have fit the character perfectly.
Alas it was not to be. McConaughey coasts through the role with his now trademark air of disinterest and turns Haller from a merciless operator to the standard "Lawyer with an aching heart in need of redemption." When the time comes for him to do his big “MY DEMONS ARE TEARING ME APART!” scene, well it’s just sad. Like a race horse trying to run with a broken leg, it’s like you can see that he knows that he should know how to do this, but he just can’t anymore. The rest of the cast matches him, the usually dependable Marisa Tomei overacts mightly here, as do John Leguizmo and Michael Pena in their one scene cameos. Only an underused William H. Macy and a perfectly cast, huffily entitled Ryan Philippe emerge unscathed.
The film’s not all bad, at the very least it makes good use out of it’s LA location, giving a real feel for the city and Connelly’s narrative is so tightly plotted that a few of his beats can’t help but survive with impact intact, even if they are played at half speed. Also Michael Pere is in this movie and so for a second I got to go “Man I love Streets Of Fire, what an awesome movie that is. Pere looks pretty good for his age.”
So in conclusion, go see Streets Of Fire. There’s a scene where Willem Dafoe walks out of a burning building. Delivers a threat. Turns around. And walks back in. It has more entertainment value than anything you will see in The Lincoln Lawyer.