The Lincoln Lawyer: The LA Cocktail

Year Released: 2011
Directed by: Brad Furman
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa tomei, William Macy
(R, 119 min.)

"Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under ‘t." William Shakespeare

Take one part Rooster Cogburn grit, add a dash of the Han Solo buccaneer, and shake with a smidgeon of James Bond savoir-faire. It adds up to a wonderful Matthew McConaughey martini. Most of it’s the hard liquor of bad boy charm with just a sly hint of Vermouth’s idealism.

Then set it down at a seamy bar in LA and you begin to get the picture of our Lincoln Lawyer, who does business from the back seat of a town car, a glossy black and polished chrome tank that would look quite at home in a Boca Raton driveway. Except for the NT GUILTY custom plates.

But that guarantee is not of the white knight variety offered by Perry Mason, the wrongly accused suddenly cleared after someone's perfectly timed admission of sobbing guilt just before the final commercial break. Most of Mick Haller’s clients are guilty low lives. He knows it and so do they. What he offers is sticky ball of red tape and legal obstruction to trip up the prosecution, who on their own side of the fence are sometimes known to play a little fast and loose as well.

Mick’s trade with the justice system is as well oiled as his Lincoln’s V-8 engine or his curly set of locks, take your pick. He slips off his belt and small change to slide past the courtroom metal detectors without missing a beat, but it’s not small change that Mick is interested in. He can throw out any number of legal delays from his assorted bag of tricks if the defendant’s payment is running late, and he doesn’t even blink when he has to negotiate with a roaring platoon of Hell’s Angels to come up with the cash. Best of all, he counts it with the sly efficiency of a major drug king pin, shuffling the bills next to his ear with deft precision.

Even his ex, Maggie McPherson (Marisa Tomei), a straight arrow prosecutor, is not immune to his draw. They still share the same friends, sometimes the same bar, and occasionally the same bed. She also becomes his designated driver with an ease that hints at a lot of practice, suggesting a reason for their albeit amiable split. That and her worry that Mick is in danger of becoming a little too much like those he defends, something she wants to protect their daughter from.

Tomei is just right for her part. Some of us remember her from her breakout role in My Cousin Vinny, where she earned an Oscar in 1992 for Best Supporting Actress, playing the gum-chewing girlfriend of the bumbling lawyer Vinny, a tom girl whose knowledge of cars turns the case in his favor. Tomei brings the same authenticity to her role here. She is pretty and sexy, but definitely not in the same lightweight league as the flighty beauties paired up with McConaughey during his desert years in romantic comedy purgatory after his promising debut in John Grisham’s 1996’s A Time to Kill. She reminds him and us of Mick’s better angels.

Mick begins to remember when he wanted more than plea bargains and cases thrown out on technicalities, when he wanted to back an innocent man. Unfortunately, his current case, defending the well-heeled Louis Roulet (Ryan Phllippe) doesn’t seem to be of that variety, though the baby-faced rich boy proclaims he is innocent of the sexual assault and attempted murder and vows to fight it all the way through a jury trial. 

But Mick’s private investigator Frank (a long-haired William Macy), isn’t buying it. And strangely enough, it is a long dead case and the cries of a client who also has proclaimed his innocence that calls to Mick now. 

Ironically, the same red tape and legal technicalities he so delighted in, are now set up to trip up Mick himself, and he finds himself wedged in legal constraints every bit as binding as prison walls. It will take all his feral cunning and legal machinations to free the innocent and uncover the guilty. But he will pay a price for it. 

What does one do when called on to defend a guilty man? That is a question we began to deal with after it dawned on us that Perry Mason reruns and even Twelve Angry Men were the exception and not the rule. Our righteous indignation began to center on the perpetrators themselves, and the heroes of televisions legal dramas such as the Law and Order franchise became the prosecutors not the defense attorneys.

You might enjoy a few other films that wrestle with this legal dilemma. There’s always the timeless Agatha Christie Witness for the Prosecution, if you want to tie yourself in legal knots. Or take the 1959 classic, Anatomy of a Murder, where Jimmy Stewart finds himself outmanuevered by his casually dismissive client and his coyly seductive wife. Of course, nothing beats the added complication of a defense attorney falling for the accused wife killer she is defending, as Glen Close does in 1985’s Jagged Edge.

The Lincoln Lawyer --despite its not knowing when to stop series of endings – is a nice topper to these iconic courtroom dramas. But it’s not so much the plot that will animate you as it is the star, McConaughey bringing his cocky charm back to the courtroom after fifteen long years.

— Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

Mick seems more at home in his favorite bar than at a restaurant. He keeps his scotch bottle out on the kitchen counter like you might keep a favorite paperweight on your desk. You might even say that he tries cases in between drinks rather than the other way around.

So instead of dreaming up some favorite recipe for a man who doesn’t put anything solid between his lips for the entire movie, let’s create him a special cocktail. This one was actually invented in London around 1929, but somehow it got named after the city of angels. Go figure.

The egg white is used as a thickener and the Italian and French Vermouth give it just the right hint of the exotic. 

Enjoy.

The LA Cocktail

Ingredients

  • Cocktail shaker
  • Ice cubes
  • Juice of ¼ lemon
  • 2 oz. whiskey
  • 1 tsp. powdered sugar
  • Egg white
  • Dash Italian vermouth
  • Dash French vermouth
  • Chilled cocktail glass
  • Lemon wedge, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker half-full with ice cubes.
  2. Add the lemon juice, whiskey, powdered sugar, egg white, Italian vermouth and French vermouth to the cocktail shaker.
  3. Cover the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 15 to 20 seconds.
  4. Strain the contents of the cocktail shaker into a chilled cocktail glass.
  5. Garnish the drink with a fresh lemon wedge and serve right away.

Recipe Source: ehow.com