‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ – the perfect Catch-22 (IANS Movie Review)

Film: ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’; Director: Brad Furman; Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy; Rating: ****

It’s a common grouse against the legal system that it rarely panders towards justice with enough loopholes for a lawyer to wriggle out no matter what the truth. Law and justice as any lawyer or activist will tell you, are not synonymous. Any film that even hints on this problem with the legal system, especially one with the impeccable flair of ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’, is welcome not just for cinema, but for life in general.

Mike (Matthew McConaughey) is a young lawyer with a panache and skill of a street hustler. Though he practices law, he does not necessarily work inside its confines with a penchant for suave lying and a lack of conscience. He is surprised on getting a rape and assault case of a rich guy who could easily have afforded a better attorney.

The case is easily winnable with enough evidence in his clients favour. Yet, after digging a little deeper, he realises that his client is not only guilty, but is responsible for a previous murder in which one of his previous client had gone to jail for life.

After his friend and investigator Frank (William H. Macy) is murdered, Mike who has developed a conscience and for the first time a sense of justice, is caught in the perfect catch-22 – he has to lose the case, will seeming to win it, a near impossible task considering the evil nature of his opponent.

An intelligent, suspenseful court-room drama is always a delight to watch. And to the credit of director Brad Furman, he manages a powerhouse film with convincing and clear direction.

Matthew McConaughey first with an overdose of suaveness and later as a striken man of conscience who despite breaking apart has to pull himself together, successfully manages to break out of his rom-com hero image with his best performance so far.

The script, based on a novel by Michael Connelly, gets the story and the ingredient right making for a very satisfying movie. The film that hints at requisite corrections in the judicial system, also gets its metaphors right and would be of particular delight to those who enjoy Sidney Lumet’s legal films or are in awe of masterpieces from the Billy Wilder classic ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ to ‘Primal Fear’.

So much so that the little hiccup of pandering to populist tastes by having our hero resort to physical retribution, will seem a minor flaw in an otherwise fine, intense, flawless drama.

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