Netflix UK TV review: The Lincoln Lawyer
Helen Archer | On 12, May 2022
This spoiler-free review is based on all episodes of Season 1.
Mickey Haller, the hero of Michael Connelly’s Lincoln Lawyer books, is much loved by reader and viewer alike. When the first, eponymous novel was adapted for the big screen in 2011, it kicked off what is now widely referred to as the McConaissance, the period in which Matthew McConaughey proved himself as a “serious” actor after a series of below-par romcoms. The actor’s turn in the film proved triumphant as he brought the character to life in all his charm, brio and cynicism.
Many fans were hoping McConaughey would reprise his role in a film of the second book. Instead, attorney-turned-prolific TV producer David E Kelley has brought the 2008 novel The Brass Verdict to the small screen, with the help of showrunner Ted Humphrey, who previously worked on The Good Wife. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo takes up the Haller mantle, although perhaps it is something of a poisoned chalice, given the comparisons which will inevitably be made with McConaughey’s charismatic performance.
The 10-episode series has a very David E Kelley look, which is to say it reminds the viewer more of his late-80s/early-90s series LA Law rather than any more modern court-based TV series. Everything seems rather dated, from the lighting to the dialogue. Even the houses of LA look like they are from a different era, compared to those we now routinely see on shows such as Selling Sunset.
Much rests on the shoulders of the main character, who we catch up with as he’s recovering from an opioid addiction thanks to a surfing accident, itself brought on by the weight of a case that didn’t go in his favour some 18 months previously. His career sees a surprising upturn when he finds himself the benefactor of a law practice bequeathed to him by a murdered colleague. With that law practice comes a high profile case that Heller must head with little to no preparation.
Trevor Elliott (played by Christopher Gorham, perhaps best known for his lead role in that other schlocky-yet addictive one-off series Harper’s Island) is a “tech genius” accused of killing his wife and her yoga teacher/lover after finding them in flagrante at the marital Malibu beach house, and Haller must defend him. He has other problems too – juggling smaller cases, which bring their share of headaches, as well as working with his “second ex-wife” Lorna (Becki Newton) and her boyfriend, Cisco (Angus Sampson), a former biker gang member who Haller brings in as his PI. Then there’s his lingering attraction for his “first ex-wife”, prosecutor Maggie McPherson aka McFierce (Neve Campbell in a role played by Marisa Tomei in the film). She’s got her own human trafficking investigation going on and so the various plotlines converge into one great potboiler.
Add to this a cute office dog, the hero’s love of jazz and fast food stands, plus the cheesy licence plates (NTGUILTY, DISMISSD, IWALKEM) of the various Lincoln cars Haller likes to be driven around in because he “thinks better” while in motion and we have a TV series that aims for thriller while not taking itself too seriously. Many of the most thoughtful moments come as Haller explains the ins-and-outs of the law to his driver Izzy (Jazz Raycole), a recovering addict like Haller, whom he takes into his employ after getting her case for grand larceny thrown out.
The issue is that everything feels rather low-stakes. Although the performances are decent all round, and Garcia-Rulfo plays Haller as a likeable yet complicated enough character, it’s difficult to care about any of the plotlines or the cast. The court scenes will doubtless appeal to fans of the genre and the series is watchable enough – perhaps a perfect box set for a rainy Sunday afternoon when your brain doesn’t want much of a workout. It’s bubble gum TV and, although it won’t set the world on fire, it’s a perfectly respectable calling card for the people involved. It is, however, unlikely to kick off any career renaissances.