Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) is one of the slickest lawyers in California, often working from the back seat of his chauffer-driven Lincoln, so it's little wonder he is the focus of much attention from prospective clients wishing him to free them from whatever charges have been brought against them. Take today, when he is going to meet a Hell's Angel who is relying on him, but hasn't come up with the fee Haller demands: to show he means business, Haller delays the trial so the accused can stew in prison a while longer, therefore by and by the fellow Angels stump up the cash. But then he is offered the case of a rich kid, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe)...
Haller is immediately intrigued because he has been asked for specifically by this Roulet, and even more so that he has access to a vast reserve of his family's finances, some of which would fit very snugly in the lawyer's bank account. But he'd better be careful, because his ability to get almost all of his clients off scot free may become a liability, and that is connected to one poor soul he was not able to help, Jesus Martinez (Michael Peña), a man adamant that he was innocent in a murder case which Haller may have managed to help him avoid the death penalty for, but nevertheless was only able to do so by putting him behind bars for a very long time. So you could see we were in legal thriller territory here.
The sort of thing suited to an episode of series television, in fact you could see McConaughey starring in this role on the small screen if the movie career had dried up. Fortunately for him, The Lincoln Lawyer represented a shot in the arm for that career, as with this and the following choices he made he garnered some of his best plaudits, and he only had to take his shirt off once. He really was excellent here as a smooth operator who finally gets in over his head, and all thanks to a state of overconfidence which is sapped out of him over the course of a plot which sees Haller have his life and comfortable lifestyle gradually chipped away at until he has to go to drastic lengths to claw back that safety, though at a price.
Backing McConaughey up were a host of reliable character actors and one leading man - Phillippe - finding new depths himself as the client who claims to be entirely innocent of the charge of assault on a prostitute against him, though he's not telling the whole truth - but for what reason? Also appearing were William H. Macy with a lion's mane of hair as Haller's good friend and investigator, Josh Lucas as the prosecutor who we find ourselves hoping will find a way past Haller's impregnable case, Bryan Cranston as the steely detective who starts investigating our protagonist, the list went on, with many a famous face cropping up in every scene and enhancing the tone of professionalism, a sense that this was a good story well told rather than straining for class outwith its reach.
This was based on the Michael Connelly book, one of those umpteen potboilers which crammed the bookshelves and guaranteed a solid amount of twists and turns wherever you cared to read it; these publications, often thrillers, sold in huge numbers and naturally made Hollywood look their way with envious eyes, so it was a given they would be adapted by and by, tapping into the same market. Funnily enough, Connelly, in spite of his popularity, had only been adapted for the movies once before in the Clint Eastwood vehicle Blood Work, and even with the celebrity power in The Lincoln Lawyer it was by no means a blockbuster. What it did gather up was a viewer in the frame of mind for a run of the mill suspense piece, who then were surprised at how good it was, and if its villain was hard to believe as the orchestrator of so much wickedness, then it was perfectly adequate storyline for everyone to do their very best in inhabiting. Music by Cliff Martinez.