Matthew McConaughey is back in slick attorney mode in “The Lincoln Lawyer,” a role clearly chosen to remind moviegoers that, once upon a time, McConaughey was the hottest thing in a courtroom in “A Time to Kill.” It’s a bid, perhaps, to take McConaughey’s career closer to where it was in his ’90s heyday, when he did “Kill” and “Contact” and caused some women to drop their boxes of Cheerios when they saw his Vanity Fair cover in the grocery store aisle.
Reviews of McConaughey’s latest performance — including this one from The Post’s Ann Hornaday — are largely positive, with many suggesting that “Lincoln Lawyer,” based on the Michael Connelly novel, could turn into a nice series of films for the Actor Formerly Known as That Guy Who Plays the Bongos When the Cops Show Up.
“ ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ just may have the makings of a terrific franchise, if only because it finds McConaughey so clearly in his comfort zone after a string of forgettable romantic comedies and action pictures,” Hornaday writes.
New York Magazine’s Vulture blog essentially asks the same question via its Star Market assessment of McConaughey. Their ultimate conclusion is that McConaughey probably has a solid future in Hollywood but that he needs to decide whether to keep riding that easy rom-com gravy train or to veer into new directions with dramatic films.
One agent, who happens to think that the easy train is the way to go, tells writer Kyle Buchanan: “For some yutz in South Carolina, anything he’s in is their first choice at the Redbox."
Hey, that’s not a bad thing. When you’re a working actor, you’ll take all the supposedly yutzy fans you can get.
But personally, I’d like to see McConaughey travel a different path. And that path is based on what I’ll call the Wooderson Principle: the notion that the most delightful work McConaughey ever did onscreen was as David Wooderson, the arrested adolescent who still loves them high school girls and drives a Chevy Chevelle named Melba Toast in “Dazed and Confused.”
McConaughey wasn’t playing McConaughey back then; he was just immersing himself in a character, one he made completely real, hilarious and likable. Shocker of all shockers, he kept his shirt on and wasn’t even remotely attractive in the movie. He was just quirky and authentic, something we’ve rarely seen him be since.
A ray of hope in that department: McConaughey’s next two roles are in dark comedies. In the first, “Killer Joe,” he plays a hitman hired by a brother (Emile Hirsch) and sister (Juno Temple) to murder their mom for the insurance money. Then he’s got “Bernie,” another movie about murder — this time, it’s the true story of a wealthy Texas woman (Shirley MacLaine) who got bumped off by a mortician (Jack Black). Yes, McConaughey plays a lawyer in this one. But he’s reteaming with Richard Linklater, the guy who directed him in “Dazed and Confused.”
Both movies are due out this year, and he’s poised to follow them up with more serious fare: He reportedly signed on to play an AIDS patients who smuggled illegal HIV drugs in “The Dallas Buyer’s Club.”
It’s unclear how any of these films will play with the yutzes in South Carolina. But if they open the door for McConaughey to expand his range — and, given his partnership with Linklater, perhaps explore making the much-needed Wooderson movie — then McConaughey might start consistently giving movie fans something far more worthy of their attention than “Reign of Fire” and “Fool’s Gold.”