CRITICAL CAVALIER: All-star cast fails to deliver

Tom Andrew

These days it’s a common assumption that when you see recognizable names attached to a project, it means you’re in for a good film, but not always. In the case of “The Lincoln Lawyer,” Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, John Leguizamo and Josh Lucas are part of the all-star cast that would give you the impression you were in for an Oscar-nominated film, at least, but you’d be wrong in that assumption.

Mick Haller (McConaughey) is a caddish, dirty Los Angeles lawyer who depends on his connections, and friends, to win cases. This even includes his ex-wife Maggie (Tomei), an L.A. prosecutor, but when it comes to their daughter, he sets his caddish ways aside.

Val (Leguizamo), a bails bondsman, brings him a case that he is told will set him up for some time: a potential, rich boy rapist played by Phillippe. Haller takes the case and enlists his longtime assistant, Frank (Macy), to help him do some investigating.

That pretty much sums up the story, without telling you whether the accused is guilty or not. Sure, there are some twists and turns along the way, as with many psychological thrillers, but none we haven’t seen before in better films.

McConaughey seems to be resting on his good looks and his swagger as he has in most of his recent films, but here, it’s just annoying. Resting on one’s looks and laurels does not an actor make, and that has never been more clear than here within the first few frames of McConaughey’s work. He is SO caddish and SO sure of himself that there is no way we could understand why so many people would want to help him. There are few scenes here and there where McConaughey shows he is the caring father, but those scenes alone are not enough for us to sympathize with his character.

Oscar-winning actress Tomei is a classic example of a talented actress doing the best she can with an OK script. She has the thankless role of the ex-wife but takes every moment she can to muster some of the film’s most real moments.

Lucas (“A Beautiful Mind,” “Glory Road,” “Sweet Home Alabama”) is wasted here. He would have been a much better choice for the role of Haller, but instead he is the prosecutor who gets to sit and grimace when he thinks his case is going south. Lucas makes the most of a poorly written character, but would have made the film much more credible in McConaughey’s role.

The rest of the cast does their level best with a script that we’ve all seen before. Macy, Leguizamo, and even Phillippe play roles we’ve all seen played before, and while it’s good to see their work, it would be better to see them in a better film.

Director Brad Furman has a made a few films prior to this but none worth mentioning. John Romano, whose screenwriting credits include the Richard Gere/Diane Lane weeper “Nights in Rodanthe,” pens the script, based on the novel by John Connelly, but most of his work can be found on the small screen.

All in all, this is a film better watched on the small screen. Save yourself the ticket price and wait for its release on DVD.

2.5 stars