Who's In It: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Frances Fisher, Michael Pena, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Mason
The Basics: Everybody loves to hate defense attorneys until they need one. Mick Haller (McConaughey) is exactly the wily sort that you want on your side when the chips are down. In this screen adaptation of a novel, he gets a tip about a case involving a rich guy (Phillippe) who allegedly beat up a prostitute. As he digs deeper into the case with his investigator (Macy), he finds out that his involvement in the case is more than coincidental. Then, the same thing happens that always occurs when you play a player--he retaliates. And here, as is usually the case, he's better than the people he's playing against. There are tons of twists and turns on the ride that Haller takes from the back of his chauffeured 1980 Lincoln town car (yes, that's where the title came from, and just ignore it if you think that's too cheesy).
What's The Deal: I have to admit something. I went into this movie with with my cranky pants on because Matthew McConaughey and I have been in a lover's quarrel for some time now. Not an actual one, but one that comes from years of not knowing what kind of cinematic experience I am going to get from him. Sometimes he doesn't meet my needs, and I leave the theater feeling used and abandoned. But this was not one of those movies--in fact, I wager to say it's his best role since Dazed and Confused. The film feels like it lasts two minutes and is packed with great performances, intrigue, and gasp-worthy moments. The following are only some of the reasons this movie made me realize the error of my assumptions.
The Relationships: This movie has a great script, written by John Romano. His credits are mostly for TV shows known for their rich character interactions, like Hill Street Blues and Early Edition. As a result, these people feel very realistic and engage in dialogue that made me feel as though I was a fly on the wall, investigating and plotting right alongside them. Macy and McConaughey make great buddies/partners, drinking copious amounts of whiskey and speaking in the kind of shorthand that comes from a long history. Even McConaughey and Tomei as ex-spouses show what it must be like to have a daughter together and sit on opposite sides of the courtroom from each other. Nothing was too over the top or dramatic. It was easy to follow but still exercised my brain--I found myself trying to anticipate what was really going on. I wasn't always right, but it made the ride much more fun.
The Rip In The Space-Time Continuum: Originally I thought putting Josh Lucas and McConaughey in the same movie was a ridiculous move, let alone in a legal case against each other. You can draw parallels between their looks and the quality of their past role choices. I figured that seeing them onscreen at the same time would be like a sexy mirror effect. But now, after getting to listen in on their courtroom battles and look into their thoughtful eyes, I say destroy the universe if you have to. If having these two onscreen together is making Einstein turn over in his grave, bring it on.
The Unexpected Quirks: Any movie that reflects the intricacies of the judicial system AND references a prostitute named Shakila Shackles without making me wince gets a huge thumbs up.