The Lincoln Lawyer review: How Netflix series differs to Matthew Mcconaughey film
Mickey Haller’s latest outing makes several changes from both the same-named film and its novel inspiration.
Although it essentially paved the way for the McConaissance, 2011's The Lincoln Lawyer was still only a moderate hit, which left few clamouring for a small-screen continuation. Nevertheless, David E Kelley, who knows a thing or two about legal thrillers, has spent the last few years trying to rescue it from development hell.
Now, just a month after his first Netflix original Anatomy of a Scandal went viral for all the wrong reasons, Kelley has the chance to restore his reputation with a new outing for the slick, sharp-suited, SUV-inhabiting defence attorney. But while 10-part series The Lincoln Lawyer shares its name with the Matthew McConaughey vehicle, it's far from a retread.
It's based on an entirely different Michael Connelly novel, for one thing – The Brass Verdict – with the action picking up a year on from the events of its predecessor, with a new leading man and supporting cast. Perhaps best-known for being one of The Magnificent Seven, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo assumes the role of Mickey Haller, while Neve Campbell brings the star power as his no-nonsense district attorney ex-wife Maggie.
Connelly, who also serves as executive producer, has hailed Rulfo for adding "a powerful dynamic and dimension to the role", and he's not wrong. The brooding Mexican is undoubtedly the most compelling aspect of the show, imbuing a character that could scream 'smug jackass' (he's prone to spouting cliches such as "fake it 'til you make it" while his license plate reads NTGUILTY) with far more charm than McConaughey.
Campbell, on the other hand, is disappointingly sidelined for most of the series, only intermittently popping up to pass judgement over Mickey's skills as both a lawyer and father to their precocious teenage daughter Hayley (Krista Warner).
Apart from Mickey's second ex-wife Lorna (Becki Newton), the other key players are new on-screen additions including gruff-voiced investigator Cisco (Angus Sampson), defendant-turned-chauffeur Izzy (Jazz Raycole) and disgraced tech mogul Trevor Elliott (Christopher Gorham) – and it's the latter's murder trial that informs much of the drama.
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As with the film's main suspect, Ryan Phillippe's playboy Louis, Trevor is a member of high society whose switches between over-confidence and vulnerability keep you guessing about his culpability: could he really have brutally killed his wife and her lover in a jealous fit of rage? But while this case would probably succeed in retaining your attention across a two-hour movie, here it struggles to sustain enough interest, which is no surprise given the series totals approximately 500 minutes of TV.
The same can also be said for the ruthless killing of a former colleague – which may or may not be linked – that brings Mickey out of his self-imposed semi-retirement.
You get the feeling Kelley would have been far more comfortable spinning this into a procedural – a format that he perfected back in the 90s. There are traces of L.A. Law and Ally McBeal in the minor cases, which offer crucial respite from all the doom and gloom: the woman charged with indecency for going topless on a beach, for example, or the man accused of embezzling a charity.
And with its jazzy music cues, soapy relationship drama and glossy cinematography, you can see how The Lincoln Lawyer was initially primed for CBS.
While the show stays relatively faithful to its source material's central narrative, readers will notice several changes in its televised transfer, from the act of vengeance that brings one case to a grisly close to the change in driving personnel, which allows Mickey to show off his softer side. The biggest difference, however, centres on the detective who helps piece the puzzles together.
Towards the book's conclusion, Mickey discovers that LAPD maverick Harry Bosch is, in fact, his half-brother. But with the latter having fronted his own eponymous Amazon original and the rival networks unwilling to forge their own multiverse of madness, a brand-new and completely unrelated sleuth (played by Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, who confusingly also guested on Bosch) shows up instead. Although Mwine stamps his authority whenever he features, the lack of family connection robs The Lincoln Lawyer of a more emotional denouement.
We're left in no doubt that Mickey has now got his mojo back, but should he avoid Netflix's increasingly swift axe and live to see another season of defending criminals from the backseat of his beloved Lincoln Town Car, there's little to whet the appetite.
Sure, the show just about does enough to justify its existence and separate itself from the novel and same-named film, and it's certainly a step up from the preposterous antics of Kelley's last effort. But why he was so determined to take such a relatively generic potboiler off the page is arguably The Lincoln Lawyer's most intriguing mystery.
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