You can always tell that Matthew McConaughey is taking on a serious role when he opts to leave his shirt on for the duration of a film. Such is the staid tone of The Lincoln Lawyer, a movie based on one of five million books Michael Connelly has written in the detective/crime genre. Centered around Mick Haller, a two-bit (forgive the Raymond Chandleresque term) lawyer who defends the worst type of accused--guilty and L.A.-based--The Lincoln Lawyer's strength lies in its traditional regard for a full-fledged character arc.

Haller exists in a world outside of the justice system, where favors are exchanged and lies are peddled in order for him to get his clients set free. Reliant on the driver of his Lincoln, Earl (Laurence Mason), for getting from one court hearing to the next, Haller often has clandestine powwows with the leader of the Hell's Angels on the side of the back roads of downtown Los Angeles. They pay him to ensure the release of one of their own (usually for several counts of drug possession) and Haller happily complies. It is not until Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) flounces into Haller's life that he starts to feel less than content/morally secure with his career.

As Ryan Phillippe has proven before (mainly with Cruel Intentions), the actor is highly adept at playing the bored and affluent white boy, which he does to a tee as Louis Roulet, a Beverly Hills denizen "falsely" accused of assaulting a prostitute named Reggie Campo (played by Margarita Leveiva, a name that sounds more whoreish than Reggie Campo). After Roulet specifically requests to be represented by Haller, the nature of the Roulet's past begins to unravel at the seams--courtesy of Haller's personal investigator, Frank Levin (William H. Macy).

Levin discovers a piece of evidence that links Roulet to a crime that another one of Haller's clients was convicted of. Just when he is about to tell Haller what it is, Levin is murdered, presumably by Roulet himself. It is not until this moment that Haller is truly aware of the depth of insanity with which he is dealing with. Luckily, Haller is a man with resources, particularly his ex, Maggie (Marisa Tomei), who works for the prosecution (even if the primary resource she provides is her vag).

The great twist of the film is provided by Connelly's usual quagmiric denouements, fine-tuned by screenwriter John Romano (who has prior experience with book to film adaptations thanks to Nights in Rodanthe, and can I also just mention that he wrote several episodes of Cop Rock, which fucking rules). And, by the way, this movie gets my vote as one of the best stories set in L.A. since, hmm, maybe Training Day.