Putting the boot into Netflix is a full-time job these days; pretty much everything that appears on the streaming service comes with a stark warning from those who have already seen it, and my review of The Grey Man doesn’t feel so urgent when it’s already been so universally rubbished. But although it’s hard to gauge success, there are sleeper hits, even if they’re more tv than cinema. This 10 part adaptation of Michael Connelly’s crime novel The Brass Verdict was unceremoniously dumped during pre-production by a major tv studio (CBS); Netflix picked it up, recast the lead actor, finished the show and, like You, scored a surprising direct hit with the public.
Of course, we’ve been round the block with The Lincoln Lawyer before; Matthew McConaughey already made a good fist of the role for director Brad Furman in the 2011 hit, but this reboot wisely skips any character development and starts afresh. Manuel Garcia-Ruflo plays Mickey Haller, a defence attorney who operates out of the back of his Lincoln car; a nice, simple, unforced scenario that brings back memories of 70’s show like The Rockford Files or Petrocelli. Haller hasn’t taken a case for a year after overcoming an addiction to prescription drugs, but inherits a legal practice (and some hot cases) from a lawyer shot dead in an underground car-park. Haller starts to work his way through a backlog of misdemeanours and minor felonies, but one big case looms; the high-profile trial of an arrogant video-game designer Trevor Elliot (Christopher Gorham) who may or may not have murdered his cheating wife and her lover…
Haller also has a complicated personal life; when his phone chimes, it’s usually one of two women, listed as’ first wife’ and ‘second wife” in his directory. The first is Maggie ‘McFierce’ (Neve Campbell) who is a criminal prosecutor, and the other is Lorna Crain (Becky Newton) who works as Haller’s aide, but is now romantically entangled with Mickey’s best friend Cisco, played by the always welcome Angus Sampson from the Insidious movies. Throw in Elliot Gould as a friend of Mickey’s father and you’ve got a strong cast, playing to their strengths.
Created by David E Kelley and developed by Ted Humphrey, with Connelly as executive producer, The Lincoln Lawyer brings back the courtroom thriller in a big way; a story like this is better told over ten expansive hours rather than two, and a second series is on the way. Like Haller, The Lincoln Lawyer knows its way around an authentic series of sunny LA locations, and the whole production has a slick, air-conditioned feel. The writing is tight; Mickey Haller’s recovery from addiction is sympathetically but unsentimentally caught, and his ongoing relationship with his rehabbing chauffeuse (Jazz Raycole) allows for plenty of exposition and character building with a dash of introspective edge.
The Lincoln Lawyer wasn’t initially developed for Netflix, but it’s easily one of their best shows; rather than striving for new fresh ideas, it’s one of the oldest and most venerable genres (courtroom drama), yet it works like a charm, with Garcia-Rulfo playing resourcefully off two strong female leads. The details are persuasive, the mystery is satisfying; it might not have the hyped-pedigree of other shows, but The Lincoln Lawyer gets the job done, and in 2022, justice matters.