Monday, 13 February 2012

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To - But Sometimes They Do

It's the kind of blog title that would suggest this is an article about The Artist - it's not. Though the Artist proved that you could re-invent something thought to be long dead and give it a knowing twist without coming over all post-modernist and too knowing. It may be a thing of fluff but it's also a thing of wonder. With the momentum it's gained over the past months at various awards ceremonies I'd say it's a very good bet for Best Picture at the Oscars.

But, hang on this isn't a piece about The Artist, I wanted to draw your attention to The Lincoln Lawyer, last years adaptation of the book by Michael Connolly. Screenwriter John Romano did a terrific job in turning this into a little gem. A gem of the old school. No car chases, CGI, running gun battles or  helicopters,  just a good old fashioned plot with some great twists.

I missed it when it came out and caught it on TV last night; Matthew McConaughey has never been better. He's always had a look of Paul Newman about him but here he turns in a solid gold performance that is all his own. McConhaughey plays a defence lawyer who works all the scams to turn a fast buck. His office is his Lincoln car (registration number NTGUILTY). When told it looks a mess inside he quips, 'The maid comes Tuesday'. It's the kind of sassy comeback I like and this is peppered with them. He knows all the angles and the angels too - there's a nice subplot involving the local chapter of Hell's Angels.

What makes it joyful is a plot so tight you couldn't squeeze a cigarette paper through the cracks. It's one of those films that takes you on a ride where you think you know what's going to happen and then it flips your expectation. The 'big question' most writers would put at the end of the piece is answered half way through. McConhaughey's client is a scumbag but it's how he manipulates the system that makes the whole thing sing.

In Hollywood parlance this feels a bit like Lew Archer meets Quentin Tarantino meets The Verdict. From what I can make out it got good enough reviews and made some money. I'd like to see more. At last Mr M may have found himself a character worth repeating, this could open the door to a franchise.

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