In the gripping thriller “The Lincoln Lawyer,” Matthew McConaughey stars as Michael “Mick” Haller, a slick, charismatic Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who operates out of the back of his Lincoln Continental sedan. Having spent most of his career defending petty, gutter- variety criminals, Mick unexpectedly lands the case of a lifetime: defending a rich Beverly Hills playboy (Ryan Phillippe) who is accused of attempted murder. However, what initially appears to be a straightforward case with a big money pay-off swiftly develops into a deadly match between two masters of manipulation and a crisis of conscience for Haller.
Smooth operator Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey) zips around Los Angeles in his chauffeured Lincoln town car, cutting deals and finding clients on the road. Then he lands a doozy: a rich real-estate heir (Ryan Phillippe) accused of the brutal assault of an escort. At first, the case looks like a breeze, but odd details start nagging at Haller until he recognizes an ugly connection to an earlier case--and realizes he's been set up in the strangest way. There are some deep implausibilities in The Lincoln Lawyer, but they hardly matter. This is a movie that cruises on charm and smart casting, from McConaughey as a man whose glib polish is betrayed by a streak of doubt, down to the detectives (solid performances from Bryan Cranston, Michael Paré, Michaela Conlin, and others) and lowlifes (Katherine Moennig as an unlucky hooker, Shea Whigham as a lazy snitch) that flesh out the legal world. Every character pops out, clean and distinct; this sort of web-of-deceit story line, full of twists and turns, depends on the audience clearly connecting all the players. Some moments get overstated or maybe don't make complete sense, but the zippy pace carries the audience over those bumps. The Lincoln Lawyer could easily turn into a television series, a sort of Rockford Files-esque mixture of procedure and puzzle making. Also starring Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, Frances Fisher, John Leguizamo, and Josh Lucas as the prosecuting attorney who gives McConaughey some competition in the chiseled-looks department. --Bret Fetzer