MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: The Lincoln Lawyer, Paul

The Lincoln Lawyer (Three Stars)
U.S.: Brad Furman, 2011

Los Angeles as the city on wheels — as a supreme car community, with a highly mobile and highly motorized citizenry — gets the lawyer that it probably deserves in Matthew McConaughey’s Mick Haller, star mouthpiece of director Brad Furman‘s classy, okay neo-noir The Lincoln Lawyer. Haller, the best part McConaughey has had in quite a while, and in the best movie he’s had recently as well, is a cynical, smartly dressed defense attorney with a fashion-model profile and a gift of gab, whose only office is a swanky chauffeur-driven black Lincoln Continental, with a roomy back seat where he prepares cases, as his streetwise driver Earl (Laurence Mason), rushes him from one courtroom to another.

Most of his clients are probably guilty, something that doesn’t bother Haller overly much — perhaps since his ex-wife Maggie McPherson (Marisa Tomei) is a sharp prosecuting attorney, who evens up the odds. And none seem guiltier than Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a narcissistic, bad-tempered Beverly Hills playboy, with a very tolerant socialite mother (Frances Fisher). Roulet is a spoiled psycho who’s been accused of assault and attempted rape, by a victim whom he may well have terrorized and battered.

But there’s another of Louis’ possible victims capable of throwing even more of a worry or a scruple into the tough-hided Haller, and that’s the dead woman for whose murder another Haller client (Michael Pena) now rots in jail. Meanwhile, as Mick‘s shaggy best buddy, p. i. Frank (William H. Macy), tries to dig up the facts, and Earl tries to keep his boss/rider on schedule, Haller spars with bail bondsman Val Valenzuela (John Leguizamo) and prosecutor Ted Minton (Josh Lucas) and a bevy of tough-talking cops.

That’s the kicker — the moral quandary, and what it does to you to keep defending the probably guilty and maybe the truly heinous (and perhaps even putting them on the street to commit heinous atrocities again) — that animates novelist (and ex-L. A. Times crime reporter) Michael Connelly’s story. It‘s been sharply adapted by John Romano, and very sharply and atmospherically directed by Furman (The Take), and it keeps posing the kind of moral questions that were common in the classic noirs of Chandler, Hammett, Cain, Thompson or Higgins, but aren’t always as satisfactorily handled in today’s movies and TV shows, just as moral questions can be pretty well ignored in real life today by psychopaths, their lawyers, and, of course, by politicians.

It’s a tough story, hard-nosed and audience-savvy: a neo-noir in settings both glamorous and salty, and a movie that gives you a tingling shot of L. A. style, plus a very good cast having a lot of fun playing deeper-than-usual roles that suggest real, or at least interesting, people. Especially McConaughey. He’s been good at courtroom thrillers before, especially in the Grisham-based 1995 A Time to Kill, but Mick Haller, based on a real-life lawyer Connelly met at a Dodgers game, is a character you could stand seeing a few more times, in a few more neo-noirs.

Paul (Two and a Half Stars)
U. S.: Greg Mottola, 2011

Suppose you were to rethink E. T. as a combination 70s road movie and Three Days of the Condor-style paranoid anti-C.I.A. thriller, with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, of Shaun of the Dead as a couple of RV-riding, geek-slacker Brits named Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost), who make up a comic book artist-writer team, and Seth Rogen as the voice of a little green man/E.T. named Paul, who’s even more of a geek-slacker than they are.

Kristen Wiig is the romantic interest, Ruth Buggs, a skinny gal with a deformed eye and a bible thumping pa (John Carroll Lynch) who’s chasing them all, and a new-found fascination with four-letter words. And Jason Bateman is one of the spooks. And Blythe Danner is an old-time UFO-spotter. And, oh yeah, Sigourney Weaver, in a gown, is the main government villain, The Big Guy.

It sounds sort of funny. But, as written by Pegg and Frost, and directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland), it’s sometimes a little witty, sometimes a little campy or likably slap-sticky, but more often scruffy-looking, forced and obvious. The magnum opus graphic novel of Graeme and Clive, for example, has a cover sporting an alien supergal with three breasts, but not one memorable bra joke. For some reason, creationism gets them all angry. And little Paul keeps making smart-ass remarks and exposing himself to unwise scrutiny.

Yeah, I know a lot of people like this. Didn’t help me any. I hate to say this, but this movie could have used Ricky Gervais, maybe as the guys’ acerbic and cynical asshole of an agent. He could have won points by insulting everybody, and maybe betraying them, and getting smooshed. Or maybe the movie would have been better with Edgar Wright (the other “Shaun” guy) directing it, but why would he have wanted to, for reasons other than companionship or an unwise wager?

Oh yeah, Steven Spielberg is in this thing too. As Steven Spielberg. I’m afraid he can’t tip the balance.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.


awesome stuff. OK I would like to contribute as well by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to modify. check it out at All custom premade files, many of them totally free to get. Also, check out Dow on: Wilmington on DVDs: How to Train Your Dragon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Darjeeling Limited, The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov, The Hangover, The Human Centipede and more ...

cool post. OK I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to customize. check it out at All custom templates, many of them dirt cheap or free to get. Also, check out Downlo on: Wilmington on Movies: I'm Still Here, Soul Kitchen and Bran Nue Dae

awesome post. Now I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some beautiful and easy to modify. take a look at All custom premade files, many of them free to get. Also, check out DownloadSoho.c on: MW on Movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Paranormal Activity 2, and CIFF Wrap-Up

Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Rory on: Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

Andrew Coyle on: Wilmington On Movies: Paterson

tamzap on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Magnificent Seven, Date Night, Little Women, Chicago and more …

rdecker5 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Ivan's Childhood

Ray Pride on: Wilmington on Movies: The Purge: Election Year

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon