At last Matthew McConaughey is doing what comes naturally -- playing a polished, almost to the point of slick, clever, defense attorney. This is his best role in a long time and he wears it well. His character's crescendo like-build from being a pragmatic lawyer, whose only concern is winning, to being an advocate for justice and truth, is riveting. "My father taught me there's no client as scary to defend as an innocent man," Mike Holler (Mc Conaughey) says at the opening of the film.
Mc Conaughey has not done a film for two years. Here, he has chosen wisely to star along with the Oscar winning Marisa Tomei (Maggie) in this best-selling Michael Connelly novel turned thriller. Their on screen chemistry is electric.
Mike Holler is hired to defend a rich Beverly Hills bourgeois brat, Louis Roulet, played with frightening precision by Ryan Philippe. Promise of money propels Holler to take the case of Roulet and once you are into the film you realize things are not what they seem. Manipulation keeps you wondering what is really happening, who is telling the truth, what is the truth, how many murders have there been, and why. Roulet's mother (Frances Fisher) is excellent as a manipulative millionairess. Roulet is a momma's boy. She formerly sold real estate. You wonder why she ever worked as she seems to have all the money needed for her lavish lifestyle. Louis Roulet is charged with brutally assaulting a woman and needs a good lawyer to represent him for attempted rape-murder. Holler is suggested to him by a bail bondsman and fits the bill.
Holler operates out of the backseat of his Lincoln with his chauffer acting a bit like is secretary though he is a former client who owes Holler. Now driving Holler from one client to the next, he owes Holler less. Maggie, the fierce, as Holler calls his ex, is an attorney for the prosecution and will not take the "Roulet case" and be forced to go up against her defense attorney and once husband. Though divorced, they have an on and off again romance challenged by opposing belief's in the justice system.
"How does someone like you sleep at night with all the scum you represent?" Maggie asks her husband.
"It's called the justice system. That's how it's supposed to work." Holler replies.
"Not when I'm trying to keep dirt bags off the street and you keep putting them there," she says.
Still their romance becomes renewed with a steamy well photographed sex scene, tasteful and yet erotic though here the music works against any eroticism -- one of the rare flaws of the film.
Holler learns that Roulet has lied to him and may have committed a murder a few years back. To control Roulet he shouts, "They've got enough on you to put your golf-playing ass away for life." Still Holler is bound by attorney client privilege to defend Roulet. Ethically Holler cannot damage or throw the case.
This is a complex story with a murder committed in the same club as the rape-assault years before, but this murderer has gone to jail even though Holler defended him. The photography of this club and the sexually charged scenes in which hookers meet their clients is visceral. You can taste the beer they drink and imagine the passionate sex the tattooed whores sell. In the old murder case the whore looks a great deal like the one brutalized by Roulet. And so goes this complex plot with good direction from Brad Furman.
A crime scene witness, resplendent in tattoos and both blond and black hair, is suspected to be implicated in the rape. He is asked if a certain woman was a whore. "$400 bucks worth. She earned every penny," he replies. "But no, I'm not into the rougher stuff. I'm a missionary man."
The writing is clever, terse, and concise to the point of biting. Still, it is funny with a large dose of irony at the right moments. While initially you are turned off by Holler's character whose conscience seems to have been erased, by the end he wins your heart. This is a must see film if you like complex legal thrillers and watching Matthew McConaughey strut his talented, handsome stuff.