The Lincoln Lawyer

  • Review Date: March 14, 2011
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 119 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Legal thriller entertains but is too dark, heavy for kids.
  • Review Date: March 14, 2011
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 119 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

There are troubling messages about how wealth can get criminals acquitted and excused and how the justice system can be manipulated by those with means. Many characters also seem to solve their problems with alcohol or by thinking that they're above the law. That said, Mick also proves that everyone deserves a good, knowledgeable defense attorney and that true innocence is something that should be fought for at all costs.

Positive role models

Most of the characters are deeply flawed, and a couple have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Main character Mick is sort of a rogue, but he truly believes in the justice system, in his friendship with Frank, and in the innocence of one of his clients. He also seems to be a loving father.  But overall, most of the characters -- especially the Roulets -- are pretty despicable.


Three characters are shot -- at least one is killed in an execution-style murder. Many references to violent crimes, and the entire movie is focused on a possible rape, assault, and murder (shown in flashback a few times). A gang of bikers brutally beats up a character. A character threatens another's family. Suspects recall the crimes they've been accused of committing.


A formerly married couple flirts with each other on several occasions and sleeps together once. The woman is shown in her bra, and the man is shown in varying degrees of undress, but there's no actual nudity, and the scene is brief. Two different prostitutes in skimpy outfits flirt with potential clients in clubs.


Language includes a few uses of "f--k," plus "a--hole," "s--t," the occasional "prick" and "p---y," "ass," "hell," "damn," "oh my God," and "goddamn." In one conversation, a character uses the derogatory terms "fag" and "faggot" at least four times.


Several brands are featured or mentioned more than once in the movie, including Mick's titular Lincoln Continental, a client's Maserati and Range Rover, a bike gang's Harleys, Apple computers, a Mustang, and a recognizable brand of vodka.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Nearly every scene shows a character drinking (beer, cocktails, hard liquor) -- in a bar, at home, at dinner -- and more often than not, the characters are getting drunk. It's mentioned that Mick is chauffeured around because he lost his driver's license; the implication is that it was DUI related. Both he and his ex-wife drink excessively; they even have sex after they're both fairly drunk. A character asks for a smoke, and another is seen with a pack of cigarettes, but she's not shown smoking them. References to drug use, substance abuse, and rehab.

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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.

Families can talk about...

  • 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 18, 2011
DVD release date:July 12, 2011
Cast:Marisa Tomei, Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy
Director:Brad Furman
Run time:119 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:some violence, sexual content, and language

This review of The Lincoln Lawyer was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byprotectivemom111 April 22, 2011

Depends on your values

The Common Sense Media review is exactly accurate, but I do not recall the rape shown in flashback, only mentioned about 3 times with no detail whatsoever, and I'm extremely sensitive to this kind of situation, so I would remember it. My husband and I enjoyed this movie but because of the overall content, it is only suitable for older children - borderline age 16 or better for 17+. Overall it's really not that bad, so if you are not overprotective, you may think it's okay for 14+.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 15 years old Written bybananalover March 23, 2011

the lincoln lawyer

nothing special but nothing bad about it, i think it had some really harsh words and some violence and a little sex but it had alot of drinking in it you don't won't your children seeing drinking don't let them see this movie.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great role models
Adult Written bykhan2705 June 3, 2011

a gooooooooooooood movie.

Matthew McConaughey stars in this legal thriller as a low-rent defense attorney named Mickey Haller. Most of the time, Mickey barely keeps his head above water, representing low-life clients and working out of the back of his car. He thinks he's landed the case of a lifetime when he's hired to defend a rich playboy (Ryan Phillippe) who stands accused of rape and attempted murder, and eagerly accepts his new client and the massive payoff that's sure to come with him. But Mickey soon discovers that he's become ensnared in a twisted plot where no fee in the world is high enough to pay for the deadly workload, and his only hope of survival may just lay in his own skills as a long-practiced double-crosser. saw this movie last night and boy! what a good movie it was. i loved it. One of the best movies of this year. a courtroom drama thriller that will really shock you with how good it is. i mean i was since i wasn't expecting much from it seriously, Rotten Tomatoes rating aside but i wasn't sure about it. even as i was watching this movie the first 20 or 30 minutes are just plain nothing, it actually took time to get into the movie and once it did i really started enjoying it and was really glued. i hardly remember any modern movie like this. it was made in a way people enjoy watching it and that is exactly what i did. Directed by Brad Furman who i don't know nothing about did an awsome job with this movie. Screenplay takes sometime to develop in the beginning but overall well written. plot is edgy, slick, thrilling and filled with twists and turns in a good way, i mean not over done. editing is perfect. everything else technically is good. background music is good. finally got see the good lovable non-annoying talented side of Matthew McConaughey, he did a superb job in this movie shockingly. his best movie in years. two thumbs up to him, i really appreciate it. Marisa Tomei was good too with little screen presence she still leaves a bit of a mark. Ryan Phillippe as a villain is a nice idea but honestly he just looks good in it i don't think he was good but very okay. William H. Macy was okay too. and others too like Michael Pena, Josh Lucas and John Leguizamo. but the bright star here is Matthew who really does a superb job in every scene specially the courtroom scenes where he is so believable and just make you feel he is completely into the character. i can't think of any negative things about this movie , it was very good. minor flaws are there but beside them the movie stands out. the developments that happens in the movie keeps audience involved so much in the movie. it is thrilling and suspenseful and interesting. movie is enjoyable and entertaining that is a must watch this year. it may not be a classic but it is very stylish and classy feel to it. WATCH IT if you haven't already.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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