What happens when you take a slick, confident, controller lawyer out his element? Things crumble. They collapse around him and the people who work with him. It also makes for optimal entertainment.
Enter The Lincoln Lawyer, Matthew McConaughey a high rolling Los Angeles defense attorney working out of his car to ensure maximum profitability. He’s a little detestable, seeing nothing wrong with ensuring clients are set free regardless of their crimes, yet oddly likeable. He’s a family man, still caring for his daughter, the marriage breaking up due to conflicting professions, nothing more. It’s hard to be a bottom feeder DA when your wife is a prosecutor.
His latest case is defending a disgustingly rich 32-year old, Ryan Philleppe finally playing somewhere near his age, and accused of beating a prostitute. The character shares that same slickness and innocence, only of course, it’s more complicated than that. It always is.
Philleppe requests the well known, high profile “Lincoln Lawyer,” the reasons for which remain clouded in mystery. His own mammoth legal team would have plenty of clout to set him free. Instead, the film kicks off a string of complexities, murders, and legal wranglings so precise in their delivery, Lincoln Lawyer becomes its own breed of legal thriller.
It’s tight, restricted, and appropriately stuffy, a film rife with intensity and glamorous photography even if it’s not picturing the best side of humanity. It’s hard these days to take a courtroom and give it life on film; we’ve been there before. Lincoln Lawyer’s zooms and focused close-ups hit when they should, and those swerves into an eager, information-absorbing jury connect with the narrative. Director Brad Furman’s second piece dazzles as it translates from the pages of Michael Connelly’s novel, although the strength of the source material certainly doesn’t hurt.
Still, the film may be trimmed bare, yet it feels as if it loses little. Relationships remain sparse yet strong, the dramatic twists and turns lose none of their impact, and the ending is so utterly satisfying, a smile can be the only result. Here’s to McConaughey for finally breaking free from the grasp of brain dead romantic comedies to play a richly textured lawyer. Actually, he can play every lawyer from every movie ever at this point. It’s obviously meant to be.
Furman chooses digital for this one, reaching for the Red One, and producing a typically desaturated, clean, natural looking piece of non-film. Clarity is of the utmost importance for nearly every frame, those intense, stern face-offs between key characters never lost to any deficiency in the video.
In fact, there’s not much of anything to complain about. The source material is pure, almost entirely devoid of noise save for a few brief nighttime shots where the sky brings a little fuzziness. It’s inoffensive though, relegated to a small portion of the screen, leaving the rest to shine. Lincoln Lawyer is sharp and snazzy, much like its main character. This Lionsgate AVC encode never comes into play, and the transition to the home has proved transparent.
Fine detail is always in play, close-ups outstandingly pure, never given that wholly digital, smooth, unnatural look. That’s not to say it’s not here; the Red is known for it. No doubt this one struggles too, suffering in the mid range where it matters a little less, but still becomes evident. No one’s face is this smoothed over, and yes, that even goes for the high society class of L.A.’s richest neighborhoods. This is point where it is important to note the general briefness and rarity of these offenses to the eye, confined to a few minor sequences, rebounding on zooms.
Black levels are exceptional, usually not a trait for the Red, but one discovered here. While they might lack a slight, full-bodied appearance a times, they never seem diluted or washed out. Colors take on the latter qualities, flesh tones meager in their saturation, and the surrounding Los Angeles locales muted. Lincoln Lawyer’s narrative aspects play into how it looks. That’s not a flaw, just a consistent appearance that makes sense without resorting to damaging post-production tinkering.
To say a DTS-HD 7.1 mix is overkill probably doesn’t make the point as well as it should. Lincoln Lawyer’s sole claim to audio fame is the soundtrack, boomy, rich hip hop that has no trouble trying to make the subwoofer bounce like a hydraulically inclined low rider. “Try” is the key word, but it’s enough of a concern, especially at 16:24 when it reaches a peak it won’t match again. There’s not much of anything going on elsewhere, the courthouse dead as far as rears are concerned and the city streets devoid of any clustered metropolis noises.
The whole thing feels a little quiet, a bit short on the decibels, some volume adjustment needed to catch it all. Once up a few notches, the dialogue’s purity will kick in and stay stable. Still, it’s a shame there isn’t just a little more punch to envelope this one.
No commentary here, the extras kicking off with Making the Case, explaining how the book made the transition to a different medium, interviews with the author and director in tow. Michael Connelly: At Home on the Road follows the writer around Los Angeles as he details his favorite locations. One on One is a conversation with McConaughey and Connelly, discussing the character and how it was portrayed. A series of four deleted scenes run an equal number of minutes, while some trailers are here to spice things up a fraction.