Matthew McConaughey stars in a new legal drama as a defense attorney with a case that could make him a star or end his career. It's adapted from a novel by Michael Connelly who praises the film version as true to the spirit of his best seller. Here's a look at The Lincoln Lawyer.
Mick Haller is a lawyer who is driven, literally. The back seat of his Lincoln automobile is set up as a rolling office where he works while shuttling between the 40 courthouses in Los Angeles or, on occasion, picking up his daughter from soccer practice.
"Why can't you get a real office?"
"Well, sweetie, this is a real office. What's more fun, my office or your mom's?"
Mick is a smooth operator known for winning cases. So when wealthy playboy Lewis Roulet is accused of murder, he turns to "The Lincoln Lawyer."
"This whole thing is a setup. I made a mistake with that woman and she was setting me up."
"Keep your voice down."
Matthew McConaughey has played lawyers before in films like the historical drama Amistad and the contemporary legal thriller A Time To Kill. Before he discovered acting, he even considered studying law. McConaughey says this character, Mick Haller, is a collection of contradictions as he seeks justice for his clients.
"The system doesn't like the Mick Hallers of the world. Is he a 'white knight?' No. But are the people he is defending 'white knights?' No. Are the people he is dealing with innocent? Not usually, but that is the fight he chooses to fight," notes McConaughey. "So there are two sides of the coin and Mick has just chosen the defense side."
"Are you sure there is not anything you are not telling me?"
"One of the great things is that Mick is always one or two steps ahead," explains McConaughey. "And when he his not, and there does come a time when he does not have the answer, he still bluffs and plays like he has the answer. Basically, he is just throwing a gamble on the table and saying 'let's go, big boy, let's get after it.' "
"So he's a card player. He's dealing. He's bluffing. He's doubling down, and all this has to do with the livelihood of not only himself, but his family, an innocent man that he put in jail [or] a guilty man that he is defending," adds Ryan Phillippe, who co-stars as Lewis Roulet, the latest defendant, determined to get away with murder.
"It's fun to play a bad guy. It's very liberating," admits Philippe. "When you are the protagonist or the hero there are rules to that. You have to keep the audience on your side [and] you have to be relatable. When you're the villain or a bad guy all of that goes out the window and you can go as extreme or as bizarre as you want.
"There's something very interesting about the psychology of the serial killer who kind of wants to get caught, who leaves clues and leads on the police," Philippe says. "That's one of the things. When Roulet is so anxious to take the stand in his own defense [and] he is so adamant that the case go immediately to trial. A guilty person typically would want to avoid those things, but there is something about that that excites him: that game, that toying with the rest of the people."
Author Michael Connelly drew on his experience as a journalist and consulted several defense attorneys while writing the novel on which the film is based. Well known for his crime fiction series featuring detective Harry Bosch, Connelly says The Lincoln Lawyer posed the same dilemma for the filmmakers as it did for him as a writer: how to make audiences root for a lawyer.
"I wanted to challenge myself and write about a character that is pretty much misunderstood by most of society and is quite an underdog in the justice system.," explains Conelly. "That was the big challenge in this book, and it was also my big concern in turning it over to people who make movies because it would be quite easy for Hollywood to turn him into a lovable scallywag and then the reality that I worked hard to get into the book is being eroded. To their credit, they didn't do that. They really kept him loyal to the book."
The cast of Lincoln Lawyer also includes Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei as a veteran prosecutor. In a refreshing change from recent films that try to imitate a real setting, the movie was filmed on location in some of the grittier corners of Los Angeles.