The first thought I had when I saw that Matthew McConaughey was starring in Brad Furman’s THE LINCOLN LAWYER, a modern day dissection of just how far the legal system’s corruption reaches, was how could he not be sick and tired of playing lawyers at this point in his career.
McConaughey’s first big break was in Richard Linklater’s DAZED AND CONFUSED, but he was propelled into the stratosphere of stardom that we know him from, when he starred as Jake Briggance, a fresh, Southern lawyer taking a crack at his first big case in Joel Schumacher’s A TIME TO KILL. Clearly, he was pretty memorable for me as Briggance because it turns out he hasn’t set foot in a courtroom since – well, he hasn’t set foot on a courtroom set since then anyway. And here I was thinking that all the man ever played was lawyers. Fortunately, I did a little research before meeting him.
One of McConaughey’s favorite things to talk about? THE LINCOLN LAWYER. “When people like it, I can tell,” the veteran junket junkie proclaims. “And people are enjoying this film so there is stuff to talk about.” McConaughey plays Mick Haller, a recurring character in a series of legal novels written by Michael Connelly, a character he describes as both a “bottom feeder” and an “idealist”. Mick is a defense lawyer who defends whoever can pay him the highest price at the end of the day. He knows every loop and every hole to get around anything the system throws at him. It’s certainly a far cry from the greenery of Jake Briggance (pictured below).
The world McConaughey is referring to is one of mistrust and questionable scruples, disguised as the almighty justice system. Mick is set to defend Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe), a hotshot realtor who has been accused of attempted rape and battery on a known prostitute. When it becomes apparent that Louis’s innocence may not be so clear cut, every facet of Mick’s life, from his relationship with his ex-wife (Marisa Tomei) to his work on previous cases, begins to fall apart.
“He’s juggling a lot of things; it’s a bit vaudeville,” McConaughey quips. “They can’t just all land at once.” If it didn’t appear as though they all would land at the same time though, it just wouldn’t make for very good drama, now would it?
To further throw off Mick’s balance, he learns that a man he once defended (Michael Pena) was wrongly convicted. He can’t prove it though without breaking the rules he is bound to as a lawyer and this conflict makes his circus act much trickier to uphold. “I was intrigued by this box he is in,” the box being metaphoric, of course. McConaughey continues, “What happens if you found out today that you put, not allowed, but put an innocent man in jail? I can’t imagine a worse nightmare.”
“I’ve got enough going on that I don’t need any other ‘new stimulus’,” he says cheekily, complete with air quotes. “When I’m on a film and I’m working, it’s work. I go home after and I have a structured lifestyle. Even if that's the watching the game on television.” His family even travels with him on junkets now.