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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Lincoln Lawyer

July 10th, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

I had low expectations for The Lincoln Lawyer for a number of reasons. It's a legal thriller, which is a genre that has fallen out of fashion. Its star, Matthew McConaughey, has a track record that has been soft of late, especially with critics. However, it earned more than twice as much money at the box office than I was expecting, and was an equally surprising hit with critics as well. Does it deserve this critical success? Will it find an even larger audience on the home market?

The Movie

Matthew McConaughey stars as Mick Haller, a lawyer who is not your typical defense attorney. Firstly, his office is his Lincoln Towncar, which is driven by a former client who couldn't pay his bill. His latest client is not his usual low level drug dealer or prostitute, but the rich son of a real estate agent, Louis Roulet, who is accused to assaulting a woman during an attempted rape. His first task is getting him out of jail on bail, which might be hard, as he has a contentious relationship with the prosecutor, Maggie, who also happens to be his ex-wife. (The conflict of interest is obvious, so there will be a different prosecutor at trail.) At first the case seems pretty simple. Louis Roulet went to the apartment of Reggie Campo, a prostitute, for the usual reason. When he got there, he was struck from behind and when he regained consciousness, he was being held down and shortly afterward arrested for the crime. It looks like a simple setup for a pending civil lawsuit. However, when Mick and his P.I., Frank Levin, look into things, it's far more complex.

And really, that's all I can say without giving away spoilers. In fact, I've already given away a detail or two that we don't learn right away. That's one of the difficulties in dealing with a courtroom drama / legal thriller like this.

So without getting into the details, how well does The Lincoln Lawyer work? It has some very solid aspects to it, but also some parts that fail to live up to its promise. On the positive side, it turns out Matthew McConaughey can act. That may sound a little mean, but some of his recent movie choices have been regrettable. (Surfer, Dude. Really?) But here he is excellent as a slick lawyer who manages to come out on top due in large part to his charm. He plays the scummy defense attorney well. (Maybe scummy isn't the right word, but the character is not above scamming a bit of extra cash from his clients.) The film is also aided by an amazing supporting cast. Marisa Tomei has won an Oscar, William H. Macy has been nominated, John Leguizamo and Bryan Cranston have both won Emmys, etc. Across the board, the acting is great.

Where the film loses a few points is in the writing, and even then it is only a few points. I thought the film tipped its hand a little too early and there were moments where I felt the film was a little too by-the-numbers. For instance, very early on, a police detective taunts Mick about a past case, attacking him for helping put scum back on the streets. This is such a cliché and practically every film about a defense attorney will have a scene like this. However, Mick lost that case and his client is away doing 15 years. Obviously that case and this one are connected, otherwise there's no reason to bring it up. It's still an exceptionally well made example of the genre, even if it didn't quite bring enough new to the table.

If you like courtroom thrillers, it is certainly worth checking out. Plus, there are enough twists that the replay value is better than a lot of its competition.

The Extras

The extras on both the DVD and the Blu-ray are rather limited with just a trio of featurettes and a few deleted scenes. The first featurette, Making the Case: Creating 'The Lincoln Lawyer', is a 14-minute featurette on the creation of the movie from the initial inception of the novel to the final script to the filming. It's the usual mix of talking heads, behind-the-scenes footage, and clips from the movie. Michael Connelly: At Home on the Road is a ten-minute featurette with the writer of the original novel giving us a tour of Los Angeles and the locations that have inspired his writing. One on One with McConaughey and Connelly is a short, five-minute featurette with Matthew McConaughey and Michael Connelly interviewing each other. None of the extras are weak in themselves, but in total they're barely more than 30 minutes in length, which is not much for a first-run release.

The Blu-ray does look really good, for a drama. It's not a visually intensive film, but it shines in terms of details and color, outside of the flashback scenes, which are stylistic as to set them apart. The contrast is strong, the blacks are deep, and there are no issues with compression. The audio is likewise strong where it is needed, but it is not going to push your home theater system. The dialogue is always clear and that's the most important aspect for a film like this. There are enough ambient sounds coming out of your surround speakers, mainly traffic noises, while the score is used appropriately. Not the most technically impressive 7.1 track I've encountered, but there are also no complaints.

While the Blu-ray has no additional extras and the movie is not the type that needs to be seen in High Definition to be appreciated, it also only costs 20% more than the DVD, and you can't complain about that.

The Verdict

The Lincoln Lawyer has a good script that tells a compelling story, but it is the cast that is the real highlight of the movie. I'm disappointed by the extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray, but it is still worth picking up, while the latter is the better deal over the former.

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