McConaughey can act

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By Tressa Eckermann, Senior Staff Writer

It’s been 18 years since Matthew McConaughey made his debut in the cult classic “Dazed and Confused” and since then he’s been lost in a haze of gooey romantic comedies. In his newest film, his first since 2009’s “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” McConaughey demonstrates what many have long since dismissed – he’s actually a pretty good actor.

In “The Lincoln Lawyer,” (based on the popular series of books by Michael Connelly) McConaughey plays Mick Haller, a charming and successful California defense attorney who works out of his Lincoln town car. He makes a living representing everyone from accused murderers to biker gang members arrested on minor drug charges.

As happens in every legal thriller, he soon lands the case of his career, representing rich Beverly Hills playboy, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe, who’s gotten very good at being very slimy). He’s accused of brutally beating a prostitute whom he says set him up when she found out who he was. To Haller and his investigator Frank Levin (the always reliable William H. Macey), everything seems pretty cut and dried. Roulet’s story falls in line with the evidence that they are shown by the prosecutors – Haller’s ex-wife (Marisa Tomei) and Ted Minton (Josh Lucas.)

But as the case goes to trial (largely at Roulet’s insistence), things start to fall apart. All those nice puzzle pieces that fit together don’t quite make sense any more, tossing Haller and his family into a dangerous situation.

“The Lincoln Lawyer” has its shortcomings. But the sharp writing (fans of the Connelly books won’t be disappointed. This stays close to its source material) and strong performances from McConaughey and Lucas keep this movie from falling into the typical courtroom drama.

This movie requires a lot of patience. There are a lot of characters and dangling plot lines that don’t appear to go anywhere at first, but if you stick with it everything ties up pretty neatly, with the exception of a few points that can be overlooked.

Director Brad Furman gives McConaughey a lot of room to prove that he’s better than the rom-com purgatory he’s been stuck in for so long. He plays Haller with a look and swagger of a man who can fit in with both his Beverly Hills clients and his biker clients.

McConaughey delivers each line with  smooth, oily charm that left me hoping for a sequel, which is not something I hope for often. Lucas, who’s been out of the movie spotlight for awhile, is terrific and his courtroom scenes are some of the best in the movie.

“The Lincoln Lawyer” has issues, enough that some people might not be able to get over them. But there is an intriguing plot to be found here, as well as snappy dialogue and the rediscovery that a guy, more famous for making out with Kate Hudson and his killer abs, can actually pull off a more demanding role.

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