This film zooms in at a great pace, reels off plenty of smart dialogue and promises to be a swashbuckling ride.
Unfortunately, it then gets a little too clever for its own good, loses its charm in a convoluted plot and the essence of what was so good is lost. But it still entertains and McConaughey’s southern drawl has never sounded so enchanting.
Michael “Mick” Haller (Matthew McConaughey) is an expensive criminal defense attorney whose office is his Lincoln sedan.
He has spent most of his career defending low-end criminals but unexpectedly lands the case of a rich Beverly Hills playboy, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), who is accused of attempted murder. Mick gets to work but, as the evidence builds, doubt is raised about the guilt of one of his previous clients who is in San Quentin, serving life for murder.
Haller’s rumbustious character hooks the audience from the outset; one minute he’s an eloquent attorney, the next a cool-dude hustler, and it’s all completely convincing.
He creates angles out of thin air and, when the courts don’t suit his purpose, he metes out his own justice on the street, which adds to his appeal.
Had such originality been sustained, Mick Haller may well have become an archetype in cinema history but, unfortunately, his incorrigible spirit breaks far too easily and his teary-eyed performance after a brief visit to San Quentin turns him into just another protagonist. The Haller we know would have come out fighting.
Just as Haller begins to lose his mystique, so the story goes awry, mainly courtesy of Roulet. The accused man, whose character has never been soundly structured, makes a bizarre visit to Haller’s home in the dead of night and the purpose of his visit is nothing less than ludicrous.
After this the pace slows to accommodate the multitude of characters needed to service an ever billowing plot, and the story never really recovers.
So why does Hollywood feel it necessary for their heroes to cry in movies? John Wayne and Clint never shed a tear and if they were in touch with their feminine side, it didn’t show.
So the next time a scene calls for an actor to go a little blubbery, perhaps the director ought to think back to the Dirty Harry days, remember how sexy tough-guys really are, and tell his actor to man the hell up.
UK – 18 March 2011
USA – 18 March 2011