TV Review of "The Lincoln Lawyer" on Netflix
The Lincoln Lawyer, a new legal drama on Netflix, is mildly entertaining despite having a generic lead character, multiple generic plotlines happening at once, and no unique take on the American criminal justice system in the year 2022.
It's a knockoff of the kind of algorithmic book-to-screen Amazon Prime does, the kind of retro TNT drama I only know exists because I left my television on after an NBA game, the kind of USA drama USA stopped making when it bailed on scripted programming. pipeline that produced such bestsellers as Jack Reacher, Tom Clancy's The Flash, and Bosch, with one exception: if The Lincoln Lawyer were available on Amazon.com. It very well could have been the Bosch spinoff. On the other hand, had Amazon aired The Lincoln Lawyer, viewers would have immediately drawn comparisons to David E. Kelley's Goliath, a darker, more nuanced series that explores similar ground.
There is still a market for The Lincoln Lawyer, and while some viewers (like TV critics) might wish it were grittier or more morally complex, the vast majority likely won't notice or care. The Lincoln Lawyer is briskly paced and occasionally surprising, with a couple of solid supporting performances and a reputation that suggests it should be better. Unfortunately for those of us who care, the goals set here are no more than elementary.
The Lincoln Lawyer was written by Kelley and adapted by Ted Humphrey (The Good Wife), and is based on the same series of books by Michael Connelly that inspired the Oscar-winning Matthew McConaughey film of the same name.
Mickey Haller, played by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, is Harry Bosch's half-brother in the books but has no relation to the character in the films because Amazon owns the rights to the Harry Bosch franchise. The series picks up with Mickey, a highly successful defense attorney, having just returned to work after a year away following a near-death experience while surfing. The plot is based on the general premise of Connelly's The Brass Verdict. developed a dependency on painkillers and nearly gave up law altogether This has dampened his spirits but not his financial ability to maintain his modest hilltop home (which pales in comparison to Bosch's main character's abode, but does provide some real estate porn).
Then, Mickey inherits his former partner's practice after the man is murdered. Mickey's ex-wife and legal assistant Lorna (Becki Newton) and lead investigator Cisco (Angus Sampson) are thrilled by this news because they are both in need of financial stability. For Mickey's teenage daughter Hayley (Krista Warner) and his other ex-wife, the persistent prosecutor Maggie (Neve Campbell), this is encouraging news.
The tech mogul (Christopher Gorham) whose wife and her yoga teacher boyfriend were murdered is the most high-profile and lucrative case on the dead lawyer's docket. The upcoming trial will either restore Mickey to prominence or have him put to death. While this was going on, the deceased lawyer was handling a number of smaller cases, including one involving a recovering addict (Jazz Raycole's Izzy), whom Mickey hires to be his driver because he prefers to conduct business from the back of his Lincoln. Nothing at all like Drive My Car unless you're thinking in terms of legal procedure
What does it all mean for people living in a city where issues of law and order are perennially shrouded in debates over race and class? Nothing at all, which is especially disappointing given that the series reverses the whitewashing of the character's background in the film.
It can be difficult to explain why a show fails, but in the case of The Lincoln Lawyer, it's simple. The murder case that spans the first season's ten episodes is tedious and structured like the A-plot of too many Dick Wolf procedurals to count, but perennial nice guy Gorham is enjoying playing somebody with more potential darkness.
Maggie has her own case that takes up a good chunk of the season, but the writers never establish any stakes or individual characters, so it just shambles along until it eventually dovetails with the thing Mickey is working on. And then there are Mickey's weekly cases, which seem like a holdover from the show's early days on CBS; these episodes serve primarily to set up relationships and plot devices that will help Mickey out of sticky situations in the future.
Perhaps these hypothetical procedural cases would be more useful if they were also used to showcase Mickey's skills as an attorney. Instead, he uses the same lackluster method to solve all of the mini-cases. The side cases disappear, and Mickey shows off his legal chops by mansplaining first-year law to Izzy in the back of his Lincoln during the main trial. This framing device is rarely effective and never entertaining; for example, Izzy never says to Mickey, "Explain jury selection to me like I'm a stupid four-year-old."
Mickey's actions throughout the series are so lifeless that I can't tell if Garcia-Rulfo is just giving a lifeless performance or if he's just not able to infuse the character with vibrant personality. The lawyer Mickey used to be is never seen again due to his arrival with so many scruples that there is no point in investing in the lawyer he becomes. There's genuine chemistry between Garcia-Rulfo and Warner, but none between him and Campbell, who spends most of the show with his hands on his hips in disapproval.
The show's sparks are provided primarily by the ever-reliable Newton, the ever-reliable Sampson, and LisaGay Hamilton, who has had a scene-stealing spring between this and The Dropout, as a judge strictly overseeing Mickey's legal comeback. Despite having no human characteristics and an uncanny ability to show up at necessary moments, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine is very good as the detective written into the show to replace Harry Bosch from the book.
The first half of The Lincoln Lawyer is dominated by a diverse and photogenic use of Los Angeles locations, and the second half has some acceptable twists that push you through the rest of the film as long as you don't think too hard about anything that happens. The things that Connelly's readers will be hoping for most are a compelling main character and a relentlessly exciting plot.
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