The Lincoln Lawyer

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Lincoln Lawyer Movie Poster Image
Legal thriller entertains but is too dark, heavy for kids.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 119 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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.

Violence

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.

Sex

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

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.

Consumerism

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.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Lincoln Lawyer is a John Grisham-esque legal thriller. It 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bychristian2011 December 6, 2012

Fantastic, clever, twisted legal chiller too intense for younger teens.

The Lincoln Lawyer is a great legal chiller; plot-twisting, full of shocking suprises, by which viewers will be itching to know more and more after each unexpec... Continue reading
Adult Written byWynterr S. February 23, 2017

There may not be any actual nudity but beware

I am writing this because I felt the original review lacked some pertinent info. The sex scene has partial undressing as stated but there is also a scene that... Continue reading
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... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybkubie916 January 5, 2012

I loved this movie.

I have seen this movie twice, once in regular high def and blue ray. i liked the blue ray version more. Anyways, this movie was really enjoyable and incredib... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE LINCOLN LAWYER, 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?

Happily, this film is surprisingly satisfying, and part of the reason is that for once McConaughey isn't coasting by on his good looks. 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. 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 Lincoln Lawyer -- 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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way The Lincoln Lawyer 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

For kids who love thrills

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate