Sunday, 27 March 2011

REVIEW: The Lincoln Lawyer

A moment captured in symmetry and time.

The art of the sensationalist phrase used solely to gather hits and which a subsequent review will spend 100 words toning down is an oft used tool of the independent blogger. So suck on this one. Matthew McConaughey is the most under-rated actor working in hollywood today. I say this not because McConaughey is secretly the best actor in the world, or because he has a body of work so impressive its an injustice so grievous I can stands it no more. I say it because McConaughey has a rap of being the punchline to a one-liner, an actor so dumb and so awful he should surely have a reality show on VH1 by now and stop making us watch his shitty movies. One part of this I agree with, his CV, particularly once he had arrived, is atrocious. Bad romantic comedies and cheesy action movies make up the list, with his minimal cameo in Tropic Thunder his only critically acclaimed role of the decade. McConaughey chose to be a movie star over being a great actor, chose paychecks (or fat stacks) over great work and well, had the consequent career. Showing absolutely no desire to do anything but get paid.

He starred in rom-coms with every actress going in that particular field, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Garner, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lopez, Kate Hudson again. Its a testament to McConaughey's appeal that he's been able to do nothing but phone it in to films, he could give a shit about, for nigh on a decade and still have a job. Everyone else who tries this can find their career in a shallow grave. Ed Burns, James Marsden, John Corbett, Dermot Mulroney. It goes on. Yet here McConaughey still stands, last sellout alive. This is because McConuaghey is awesome to watch on screen, he has an effortless cool about him, a bizarre likability that can withstand any piece of crap thrown at it. He may be the truest movie star of my lifetime, its just he forgot to make any good films. At least in the megastar stage, but if you look at Dazed and Confused, at John Sayles' Lone Star, at Frailty and even the highly populist A View To A Kill. He has it in him.

Which somewhat belatedly brings me to The Lincoln Lawyer. A film that has by the numbers installed deep in its DNA, the kind of film a studio makes to bide time through the dark spring months until summer's here, where it can unleash all hell upon us. A courtroom drama, dealing in the same John Grisham-esque broad and hysterical shenanigans involving serial killers and impossible cases and unfeasable feats of law-bending etc. The film I was very much reminded of when seeing this was Fracture, a film I highly doubt anyone remembers, starring Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. It too dealt in these waters. And it too leaned on a charismatic lead performance to carry it through. There it was Anthony Hopkins, and here it was unsuprisingly McConaughey. Looking excited, comfortable and truly at home, McConaughey gives as close to a tour de force as the limitations of the Lincoln Lawyer will allow, playing his unscrupulous lawyer with a relaxed confidence and cool that most actors couldn't get close to. It's ridiculous how much I enjoyed his performance in what otherwise was a feebly mediocre film, going from beat to beat in a manor both familiar and predictable.

Ryan Phillipe, despite his role being irritatingly marginalized gives a performance that rediscovers some of the yuppie smarm that he came from, and he's serviceable as he always is. Bigshots after a paycheck come and go, William H Macy, Marisa Tomei and even Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston pop their head in the door. But truthfully everyone looks bored but McConaughey, because they know this is a money picture. But for McConaughey, its the best movie he's made in years, and he knows it. Which is a good thing, because without his performance, I'd have almost nothing to say about such an average thing.

Rating: 5/10

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