I went to see THE LINCOLN LAWYER under the vague apprehension that it was about Abraham Lincoln. It's not; the movie about Lincoln that involves lawyers is called CONSPIRATOR and isn't out yet, at least not in Seattle. I don't know if that one is any good, but THE LINCOLN LAWYER is.
I want three things from a movie: characters I'm interested in (which is not the same as liking); a plot that is logical, cohesive, and absorbing; and a sense that there is something being said about the world. LINCOLN LAWYER delivers on all three. Other viewers may want other qualities from a film: visual style, for instance, on which this movie does not score as high. Or so I'm told -- visual style is not something I'm very sensitive to.
The film is about Mickey Haller, well played by Matthew McConaughey, a very successful defense lawyer of sleazy scumbags. Haller knows every scam, trick, and deception in the justice system, and employs most of them himself. When he gets a client who is actually innocent, possibly a first for him, his usual balance is upset. The glimpses of the underbelly of the courthouse-and-jail life are fascinating. Haller, who at first seems one-dimensional, reveals other facets of himself as we see his complex relationship with his ex-wife, his love for his child, and his confusion as he approaches a moral dilemma: a guilty man may still deserve a good defense, but what if he's really really guilty of something really really heinous? Where is the line in aiding evil that you don't cross -- or do you?
The plot twists and turns, and the rest of the cast keeps pace with it (Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy). If you like courtroom dramas, you'll like this one.