The Lincoln Lawyer
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this John Grisham-esque legal thriller has enough language, violence, and substance use to make it far too mature for younger teens -- plus plot twists and courtroom intrigue that will also go over some heads. The violence includes everything from murders and a gang beat-down to sexual assaults replayed a few times from different perspectives. Language includes a few uses of "f--k," plus "s--t" and "a--hole"; there's only one actual love scene (with partial undressing but no actual nudity) but several references to prostitution and sex. This Matthew McConaughey thriller is far too heavy to attract younger audiences, but parents with teens should be aware of the violence and crimes depicted in the story.
What's the story?
Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) is a slick L.A. criminal-defense attorney who, lacking a proper office, conducts most of his business from the safety of his chauffeured Lincoln Town Car. His clients include bikers with drug charges, prostitutes, and even hardened criminals, so he's surprised when his bail bondsman pal Val (John Leguizamo) tells him to meet with a swanky real-estate agent named Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe). Louis has been arrested for a violent sexual assault and, for some unknown reason, wants Haller to represent him, even though he has enough money to hire a top-tier attorney. As Mick and his colleague, private investigator Frank Levin (William H. Macy), begin to dig around, they realize that Louis is hiding something -- and Haller's former client roster holds the key to the secret.
Is it any good?
It's been a long time since McConaughey reminded audiences that he's more than a tan body with amazing abs. OK, so there was his humorous supporting role in Tropic Thunder and his decent fantasy thriller Reign of Fire, but you have to go all the way back to the late '90s to see why he made such a stir. Happily, THE LINCOLN LAWYER is surprisingly satisfying, and part of the reason is that for once McConaughey isn't coasting by on his good looks. As Mick, McConaughey is smart and very good at what he does, but he's also lonely, paying the price of defending the indefensible for so many years. McConaughey looks appropriately awful at times -- he's grieving, haunted, and drunk for the second half of the movie -- and it works, strangely enough.
The movie also benefits from a host of veteran supporting actors, from Oscar winner Marisa Tomei as Mick's prosecutor ex-wife to Phillippe as the rich boy with an attitude to the excellent Macy as Mick's PI/best friend. Leguizamo's over-caffeinated delivery is always good for a laugh, and underrated indie actor Michael Peña gives a scene-stealing performance as Mick's former client who's serving a life sentence for a crime he may not have committed. (Seeing oft-compared-to-McConaughey actor Josh Lucas as the cocky state prosecutor is a bit of a mind game, since the two actors were once considered Hollywood doppelgangers.) The twists aren't exactly Presumed Innocent-sized, but they're compelling enough to keep you interested, and with so many good actors walking around, this is one McConaughey movie worth checking out.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about the way the movie depicts drinking. Are there consequences for characters who drink too much? Do those consequences seem realistic?
How does wealth affect the justice system? Is Louis treated differently than the other suspected criminals depicted in the movie?
Why are legal thrillers are so captivating? Are real-life court cases ever this twisty and surprising?