Matthew McConaughey plays the title L.A. lawyer, a cynical slickster who goes for a high fee and drives around in a chauffeur (Laurence Mason) driven car. A bail bondsman (John Leguizamo- ‘nuff said) directs him to the case of rich kid Ryan Phillippe, accused of assault and rape of a prostitute. Phillippe says he’s innocent and that the hooker set him up. Whilst McConaughey juggles this case with other clients (junkie hooker Katherine Moenning among them), his investigator pal William H. Macy does some digging into the case. Marisa Tomei (warm as ever) plays McConaughey’s friendly ex, mother of their young daughter, and a prosecutor whose boss (the DA, played by a perfectly chosen Josh Lucas) is the one who will be going up against McConaughey in Phillippe’s trial. Frances Fisher plays Phillippe’s protective mother, Bob Gunton is an associate of Phillippe’s family, Michael Paré (where has he been the last ten years?) and Bryan Cranston play a-hole detectives who don’t like McConaughey helping to free the scumbags they’re trying to put away, Michael Pena is an imprisoned former client of McConaughey’s whom he goes to visit from time to time, and Trace Adkins has an oddball cameo as a biker.
Directed by Brad Furman (“The Take”) and scripted by John Romano (a former crime writer/reporter), this 2011 adaptation of the John Grisham-esque novel by Michael Connelly (“Blood Work”) makes one think about the old saying about the journey and the destination. I really enjoyed the journey here, it’s an entertaining yarn with a top cast. The destination, however, was predictable from quite early on (not as predictable as “Blood Work”, however), and ultimately not as satisfying as it could have been. Does that make the overall film unsatisfying? Well, that’s not the easiest question to answer because it wasn’t just the transparency that bothered me. When you look at that cast I just felt like by the end of the film not enough of those talented names had been used properly. And yet, thinking back over the film, the denouement is the only part of the film that I found any issue with. The film could’ve been better, but at the end of the day, it’s an enjoyable watch, warts and all.
Matthew McConaughey is one of the most underrated and charismatic actors out there, and has for a change found himself a worthwhile project and a good role for his talents. He’s certainly persuasive and compulsively watchable. An impressive Ryan Phillippe, meanwhile, is perfectly cast, as are Frances Fisher (possibly typecast, though), Bob Gunton, Shea Whigham, Josh Lucas (AKA McConaughey’s brother from another mother...and father) and John Leguizamo in smaller parts. The always immensely appealing Marisa Tomei and William H. Macy (the latter essentially playing a variation on his role from another courtroom film, “Ghosts of Mississippi”) steal their every scene, but they aren’t in the film enough for my liking.
The bluesy soundtrack is really cool, the story as I said is a good yarn, and 98% of the film works perfectly fine, even if it doesn’t really reinvent the wheel (It’s very John Grisham, right down to the casting of lead actor McConaughey). If you’re like me and you enjoy a good legal thriller, you’ll forgive this one’s (minor) sins and enjoy it for what it is.