That’s not Lincoln as in the rail-splitting President. It’s Lincoln as in car. Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) is a lawyer whose office is in his car, the better to maneuver between his court appearances and his clients. He’s a criminal defense attorney, and this is a nicely gritty portrayal of the criminal justice system. That means he has no illusions, either about his clients or about what we like to call the justice system. He has no illusions about happily ever after, either. He is mostly-amicably divorced from a prosecutor (the always-welcome Marisa Tomei), and shares custody of their daughter.
Mick rides around from court to court and client to client, driven by a former client working off his legal fees. He gets paid up front. He’s not above giving a kickback to a bail bondsman for a referral or giving a little sweetener to a clerk to get his case pushed to the head of the list. He’s used to dealing with, well, dealers and other low-lifes. So when he gets a chance to represent a murder suspect who is not only wealthy but claims to be innocent, this is a chance for Mick to do well by justice and himself.
But things are never so simple, and Mickey must find a way to both use and bend the rules after it appears that this case has complications that extend all the way back to a plea bargain he made on behalf of another murder suspect in a case with some disturbingly similar evidence.
McConaughey is well cast as Mick. He has the surface, slightly seedy charm of a trial lawyer. He easily conveys the struggle of someone with essential decency but a gift for shortcuts that makes him money but also makes him feel like he has to try harder. His scenes with Tomei bring out a warmth and essential decency that keeps us on Mick’s side as he tries to do the right thing.