Sahara, Fool’s Gold, The Wedding Planner: for the last decade, Matthew McConaughey’s movie career has been one big failure to launch.
It’s borderline criminal that an actor so talented – check out his smooth-talking, porn ’tached turn in Dazed And Confused (reviewed p146) – has tended to coast on nothing more than a charming smile and ’pecs appeal. But m’lud, if it please the court to hear new evidence, McConaughey may be not guilty after all...
Exhibit A is his killer turn in this classy adaptation of Michael Connelly’s fast-paced legal thriller. Playing slick LA defence lawyer Mick Haller, McConaughey mesmerises: a wellspring of suave narcissism and disarming charm.
Hired to defend a real-estate heir (Ryan Phillippe) on a rape-and-battery charge, Haller quickly realises he’s being played. Stripped of all self-assurance, he endures a sweaty, long dark night of the soul.
It’s a comeback performance that’s all the more impressive given that the supporting cast are at the top of their game too: William H. Macy as a hippie PI; Marisa Tomei as Haller’s ex-wife, wrestling depth and spark from an underwritten role; “faces” like Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo and Bryan Cranston thesping about.
Best of all is Phillippe, whose squid-ink eyes hint at a monstrous past glimpsed only in jittery flashbacks.
Director Brad Furman ratchets up the tension, multiple camera set-ups giving the editing an edgy intimacy that captures just the right shade of LA neo-noir.
With three more books in the Haller series, McConaughey may have just found his Get Out Of Jail Free card.
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