Saturday, 25 May 2024

‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ makes for a compelling thrill ride


A television series can’t get much better than having a police procedural or a legal drama based on the books of prolific author Michael Connelly, and “The Lincoln Lawyer” proves to be eminently watchable over the period of its 10 episodes.

For this series on Netflix, Connelly serves as executive producer to bring his iconoclastic criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller to the small screen almost a dozen years after Matthew McConaughey played the smooth-talking counselor in the movie of the same title.

No small measure of success for “The Lincoln Lawyer” goes to creator David E. Kelley, a graduate of Boston University with a Juris Doctor degree, who practiced law only to find his hobby was writing a legal thriller screenplay.

The rest is history for Kelley as he first wound up as a writer and story editor on Steven Bochco’s NBC legal series “L.A. Law,” and eventually became the creative force for other series like the courtroom drama “The Practice” and its spinoff “Boston Legal.”

That Michael Connelly is gifted at creating notable characters is well-established with a series of books about LAPD detective Harry Bosch, a character so brilliantly brought to the small screen by Titus Welliver in “Bosch” and now “Bosch: Legacy.”

With Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller steeped in the turf of the Los Angeles police and legal establishments, one would hope for some crossover plot lines to bring them together but that is not to be, at least for this first season.

As “The Lincoln Lawyer” opens, Mickey Haller (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, a charismatic character in his own right) is first seen at the beach, wistfully staring at the ocean waves and thinking back to an accident that derailed his life for more than a year.

Fate was apparently not kind as Haller became addicted to painkillers following the accident, putting his career on hold. Known for working from the back seat of his Lincoln SUV, Haller at least didn’t have to keep up with office expenses.

Now sober, he’s dealing with two ex-wives, the first one being Neve Campbell’s Maggie McPherson, nicknamed “McFierce” for being a tough prosecutor, who is the mother of their teenage daughter Hayley (Krista Walker).

The second former spouse is Lorna (Becki Newton), who steps in to help Haller get his professional life back on track as the best defense attorney in Los Angeles once a fortuitous circumstance drops unexpectedly in his lap.

After old colleague Jerry Vincent is gunned down in a parking garage, Haller is summoned to the chambers of presiding Judge Mary Holder (LisaGay Hamilton) to be informed that Vincent bequeathed his entire practice to the Lincoln Lawyer.

Understandably for being aware of the lawyer’s recent history, Judge Holder is wary of handing over all of Vincent’s cases unless Haller agrees to being monitored with weekly meetings to validate his competency.

The Vincent portfolio consists of a variety of cases, some of them low-level criminal offenses and the pro bono case of Izzy Letts (Jazz Raycole), a recovering addict charged with theft of an ostensibly valuable necklace.

There is, however, one very substantial criminal case that has all the makings of a celebrity media clown show that is tabloid fodder. An obnoxious rich, white guy billionaire is charged with the murder of his wife and her lover.

The high-profile murder trial of videogame developer Trevor Elliot (Christopher Gorman) takes on immediate urgency for Haller since his client insists that his courtroom drama must start as soon as possible, even if more time is needed for the attorney’s preparation.

The court of public opinion has already tried the odious tech entrepreneur to be guilty as charged, and the evidence appears overwhelmingly to point to a slam dunk guilty verdict.

Having to juggle some other cases at the same time while also dealing with ongoing family issues, such as sparring with the prosecutor's ex-wife and trying to be more involved in his daughter’s life, Haller’s charm can only do so much.

To spend more time on his homework, Haller hires Izzy to be his chauffeur, because he claims to work better when his Lincoln is in motion while listening to jazz music. Indeed, he’s not your typical counselor.

Not all legal work is motor-driven. Haller has taken over Vincent’s downtown office with Lorna as the assistant and his best friend Cisco (Angus Sampson), a motorcyclist who once rode with a gang, acting as sidekick and private investigator.

Haller’s world is populated with colorful characters, reminding one that he’s almost like a legal version of James Garner’s private eye on “The Rockford Files,” and even more so when having to deal with skeptical, hard-nosed police detective Griggs (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine).

“The Lincoln Lawyer” works best off the charm of its leading character and those in his orbit. The plot moves at a nice pace and the courtroom dialogue is often riveting. Overall, this is a series deserving of an encore.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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