In the compelling thriller The Lincoln Lawyer, Matthew McConaughey plays the streetwise LA attorney who meets his match when he's hired to defend manipulative Californian playboy Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe). He's charged with the attempted murder of a prostitute but McConaughey - more used to dealing with low-life crimmos - has to raise his game when what appears an open-and-shut case looks like it could trap him. Director Brad Furman fashions a sharp adaptation of Michael Connelly's novel with McConaughey neatly cast as the charismatic lawman who can't quite believe he's being played.
Fly LA defence attorney Mick Haller (McConaughey) is so street that he conducts his cases from the backseat of his chauffeur-driven Lincoln Continental sedan.
Cruising the city ghettos via the ramps and freeways, he makes his green dealing with low-rent crimmos from coke-dealing hookers to Hell's Angel motorcycle gangs.
However, he's taken aback when he's hired to represent Californian playboy Louis Roulet (Phillippe), an apparently clean-living property heir who can't quite believe he's been fingered for the attempted murder of a young girl.
Mick - who's got an ex-wife (Tomei) and a young daughter to support - takes the case, convinced of Roulet's innocence by his injured outrage at the accusation...and the fact he's paying big bucks.
However, doubts begin to creep in. It turns out the police evidence is stronger than he was led to believe. Roulet is economical with the truth regarding a knife he was carrying and he keeps quiet about the victim being a hooker.
Based on the novel by Michael Connelly - who also wrote Clint's Blood Work - this is a solidly impressive thriller with newcomer Brad Furman directing with flair, keeping the momentum up as Mick realises he's dealing with a master manipulator.
McConaughey - who only takes his shirt off once - makes the most of Kate Hudson's absence (her dead hand seems to have hovered over everything he's been in) and slots in nicely as the off-beam lawman, a vain, charismatic smoothie who only fails to convince when he launches into the traditional "tormented drunk" routine.
Solid support comes from William H Macy as a grizzled private investigator and Tomei as Mick's former partner who just happens (straining credibility) to be a prosecution lawyer to boot.
Furman keeps the narrative well-oiled and tight even if you wish Phillippe could have been given a little more screen time to flesh out his gloating Machiavellian rich kid.
Still, it's an extremely watchable ride with McConaughey playing to his silky strengths.