Matthew McConaughey may be the only actor in Hollywood who can swagger while sitting down. He drawls and cracks out that toothy grin and it’s lock-up-your-daughters/hide granny’s mattress money time. You either fall for his charm or roll your eyes at his chutzpah.
“The Lincoln Lawyer” gives this charming devil his due, a role that plays right into his wheelhouse -- a slick, smarmy, hustling lawyer whose clientele is the rough trade; hookers, pot pushers and biker gangs. Mick Haller (McConaughey) cajoles, sweet-talks and overcharges many of those clients, doing business in and around LA out of the back of his late model Lincoln town car. But what game can Mick run when he is hired by Beverly Hills money to defend a very rich and seemingly quite dangerous young man (Ryan Phillippe)?
Like Mick’s daddy always told him, “There’s no client as scary as an innocent man.”
Louis Roulet (Phillippe) insists on his innocence. But he’s scary way beyond his protestations. Mick quickly realizes he’s in over his head, playing chess with a grandmaster of a client, a hustler who may find himself out-hustled, disbarred or worse. And “worse” may involve Mick’s ex-wife (Marisa Tomei) and daughter.
“Lincoln Lawyer,” based on a Michael Connelly novel, is populated with a peerless supporting cast, actors who bring just the right history to their roles. There’s Tomei, sexy and weary of her ex’s flirty ways. But not that weary. John Leguizamo plays a shifty bail bondsman, Michael Pena scorches a couple of scenes as a client Mick let down years before, a man now doing hard time. Shea Whigham steals scenes as a lowdown jailhouse snitch. And William H. Macy is the manic, wise-cracking investigator Mick calls on in a pinch.
But McConaughey is the heart of this piece, a poker player trying hard not to show his hand when the other guy’s seemingly got all the cards. His offhand way with a line comes off to beautiful effect. “I don’t get paid, I don’t work,” he drawls to the bikers who want their favorite pot grower sprung from jail. They could seriously mess Mick up, and not even his bulky bodyguard/chauffeur (Laurence Mason) could save him. Mick just waits for the envelope, gives it a little shake.
“Aren’t you gonna count it?
Director Brad Furman and writer John Romano haven’t made a cunning movie. It lets you get ahead of its twists and turns from time to time. But they’ve done their part in building the perfect vehicle for a star whose career is built on playing lawyers and other hustlers. And McConaughey, with his best role since “We Are Marshall,” keeps this “Lincoln” running cool and smooth from start to finish.
Running time: 1:59