Who's In It: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Peña, Bob Gunton, Frances Fisher, Bryan Cranston, Trace Adkins
The Basics: Matthew McConaughy is an ambulance-chasing lawyer, the kind who's down with bikers who've got his back and druggie hookers who treat him like a confidante and who is happily addicted to his own sense of street cool. When a smug, entitled, too-rich, real estate creep (Phillippe, whose face was genetically created to play roles like this) is accused or rape, you know he's guilty even as he asserts his innocence. Unfortunately, his chosen legal counsel has just stepped into something deep and dirty and--just go with it--too much for him to handle. Until he handles it like the smartypants he is.
What's The Deal: Because this is based on one of those dime-a-dozen, get-it-at-the-airport-right-before-your-flight, legal thriller paperbacks, it's both weirdly breezy and full of rape, serious and silly, convoluted and packed with puzzle piece details, yet not surprising at all. In other words, it's simultaneously empty, magnetically watchable and popcorn-enjoyable. It pretends to be a real-life story about a super-lawyer who somehow manages to conduct his business out of the backseat of a boxy, vintage Lincoln (the awesomest and least necessary movie prop of 2011 to date) and you pretend that all of this is plausible and not directed with all the artistry of a Showtime original film. It's a deal you make with the movie, one you'll wind up winning as long as you're willing not to be get too investigative or picky yourself.
Time To Eat My Words: If most film critics were honest, they'd tell you their private list of actors who simply rub them the wrong way, the ones who inspire sometimes rational, sometimes irrational, dislike, whose performances feel fake and inauthentic to the point of maddening distraction. Matthew McConaughy is one of those guys for me. After turning in the coolest-of-cool comic performances in Dazed and Confused, he set about erasing his goodwill in movie after movie, especially all those awful rom-coms and brutally bad stuff like Sahara and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Just knowing he's going to star in a film usually makes me feel like I'm drowning in margarine and imitation cheese. But in this movie he turned down the "JK Livin'" persona, the one that feels like someone you can't stand constantly calling you his "bro," and he focused on the mystery/thriller at hand. It feels like the best work he's done in years and if there's a sequel I won't mind one bit. Now if he'd please cancel whatever upcoming Kate Hudson project he's probably got in the works and we'll be square.
Speaking Of Bikers And Druggie Hookers: Their fan cults will be happy to know that country star Trace Adkins pops up as the Hell's Angel-like leader of the pack and L Word mack-daddy Katherine Moennig arrives (her salon-complicated "Shane" hair somehow still intact even while serving time) in a pivotal small role.