If ever there was a film that entirely fulfilled the phrase “courtroom drama”, this is it.
Mickey Haller, our titular lawyer, operates as a flamboyant criminal defense lawyer. Unabashed of what he is and unafraid of the gangsters, thugs and drug addicts he usually represents, Haller is one day hired to defend Louis Roulet, the spoilt son of a real estate mogul accused of attempting to murder a prostitute.
Roulet’s eyes light fierce fires as he proclaims his innocence with every chance he gets, but when Haller discovers he hasn’t been completely truthful, and his investigator turns up murdered, there are no further questions as to Roulet’s guilt. Haller’s challenge comes in being professional (“attorney-client privileges”) and a few steps ahead of Roulet at all times to finally nail him.
Like I mentioned, what I loved about this movie is how deeply affiliated it is to its “crime thriller” and “courtroom drama” tags. Set in Los Angeles, Haller set the tone very early; sharing with his driver that “the best cam operators are right here in Hollywood” in reference to assuring a client that he’d get a top witness and aerial video evidence to justify his high fees. By the end of the movie, it is very clear that almost every character is, in some way, a true resident of Hollywood. Almost everyone is putting up a show or front of some kind – Roulet, his mother, a jailhouse snitch, a videographer associate of Haller’s, Haller’s ex-wife, his investigator Frank Levin and especially Haller himself. When Haller takes his turns in the court, he doesn’t just make a case – he orates it; every single bit of his demonstrations deliberate, scripted, planted. Acting seems like the way of life for all forms of life around Hollywood, and the two most honest characters (off the top of my head) are an unfortunate former client of Haller’s (convicted for a murder Roulet committed) and the prosecuting attorney (made a complete meal of in front of judge and jury by Haller).
Let’s not take anything away from Michael Conelly, it was his story and characters to begin with. But Matthew McConaughey did really well bringing life to the lead role, supported by strong performances by Ryan Philippe as Roulet, Marissa Tomei as his ex-wife, Michael Pena as a former client and William H. Macy as Frank Levin. Macy’s performance in particular made me feel like his character was prematurely killed off; he could’ve added more to the film with more screen time.
I also enjoyed the cinematography; the way the camera movements seemed parented to McConaughey’s every move and display of emotion (whenever he was in shot of course). The soundtrack was an interesting choice of hip-hop music, but didn’t make any impact on the way I enjoyed the movie.
Great effort all-round, and probably going to be at the backs of all our minds when we’re picking our top movies this year.
Director: Brad Furman
Producers: Sidney Kimmel, Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Richard Wright & Scott Steindorff
Screenwriter: John Romano
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Philippe, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Pena, Bob Gunton, Bryan Cranston, William H. Macy