(director: Brad Furman; screenwriters: John Romano/based on the novel by Michael Connelly; cinematographer: Lukas Ettlin; editor: Jeff McEvoy; music: Cliff Martinez; cast: Matthew McConaughey (Mick Haller), Ryan Phillippe (Louis Roulet), Marisa Tomei (Maggie McPherson), William H. Macy (Frank Levin), Josh Lucas (Ted Minton), Frances Fisher (Mary Windsor), John Leguizamo (Val Valenzuela), Michael Peña (Jesus Martinez), Bryan Cranston (Detective Lankford), Michael Paré (Detective Kurlen), Bob Gunton (Cecil Dobbs), Laurence Mason (Earl), Margarita Levieva(Reggie Campo), Shea Whigham (Corliss), Eric Etebari (Charles Talbot); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tom Rosenberg/Gary Lucchesi/Sidney Kimmel/Richard Wright/Scott Steindorff; Lionsgate; 2011)
“This is a grand vehicle for McConaughey.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A solid but less than great lawyer movie directed by Brad Furman (“The Take”), even if it travels as if it were a TV movie I already saw. It remains enjoyable even as it leaves too many potholes with unbelievable courtroom twists in our path. It’s based on the bestseller novel by Michael Connelly and is written by former crime reporter and crime writer John Romano. It follows sleazy but charmingly glib LA lawyer Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) around as he deals with several cases and interacts with his sweet lawyer prosecutor ex-wife Maggie (Marisa Tomei). She cares for their eight-year-old daughter and works for DA Ted Minton (Josh Lucas), the one going up against the ex in a high profile case. Smoothy Mick is hired to defend a rich man accused of assault. Mick uses the back seat of his chauffeur driven Lincoln Town Car as his office, which gives the film its novel approach to running a law practice. The loyal chauffeur Earl (Laurence Mason) is down for what passes as a few intimate conversations with the boss, who the filmmaker pumps up as a regular guy who cares despite his actions showing he doesn’t give a shit about his clients. The courtroom plot kicks in with a lot of chatter and a few nifty but preposterous twists, with everything so rigged and contrived that the air is let out of any suspense. But, despite its plot holes and superficial look at the American judicial system, this is a grand vehicle for McConaughey, who at last is in a decent pic (at least for him) and has a part he nails because he’s so well-suited for it.

The angelic looking wealthy real-estate agent, the 32-year-old Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), working for his controlling mom’s (Frances Fisher) firm, is accused of severely beating up the prostitute Reggie Campo (Margarita Levieva) in her apartment, and he requests that Mick be his lawyer. Louis loudly claims to be innocent, a victim of a get rich quick scheme setup and refuses to plea bargain. Mick relies on his efficient investigator Frank Levin (William H. Macy)–the shaggy-haired Macy delivers a powerful performance in a supporting role giving the pic some street cred–to do the leg work; while

mouthy bail bondsman Val (John Leguizamo) partners in nefarious deals (like you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours).

The assault case grows increasingly more complex, as the shady lawyer works all the angles to not only solve this case but several others that this case touches on. The Lincoln Continental lawyer doesn’t travel on the same highway as better lawyer redemption pics such as Paul Newman’s The Verdict (1982), but neither does it make you car sick. Since it’s surprisingly entertaining, I found it easy to accept it for what it is–a routine thriller that’s easy to digest if you’re looking only for a nosh between meals.