“The Lincoln Lawyer” is not the type of show that Netflix is generally known for. Converting bestselling mainstream book series into TV series is a niche competitor Amazon has had until now – they already have two “Bosch” series centered around another character created by novelist “Lincoln Lawyer” Michael Connelly, the ongoing “Jack Ryan” as well as fellow early 2010s book-turned-film-turned-show “Reacher.” On top of that, this “Lincoln Lawyer” series was originally developed for CBS before COVID-19 delays and dissatisfaction with the pilot landed the show on Netflix. He’s even guided by a former network television pro: David E. Kelley, known for his work on legal shows like “LA Law,” “Ally McBeal,” and “The Practice,” among others.
None of this is necessarily a bad thing. In fact, many Netflix shows could use the discipline of old-school network programming, and in that sense “The Lincoln Lawyer” combines the best of both worlds: a shorter season (a standard 10-episode cable and streaming, rather than a network-friendly 13 to 20) with crisp, network-friendly runtimes (closer to 45 minutes than 60). But in its passable and uninspired viewing ability, the show is approaching the middle of the pack, if that.
Like “Reacher,” the TV version of “Lincoln Lawyer” suffers a bit from its previous incarnation’s high-powered movie star glow. In the 2011 film, Matthew McConaughey played the infinitely mobile Los Angeles defense attorney Mickey Holler who prefers to work from his car — hence the nickname “Lincoln.” It’s not exactly that series lead Manuel Garcia-Rulfo isn’t up to the task as Mickey; he’s likable, and the show makes some neat changes to the character’s background to make him less of a generic white. There just isn’t much tension in Garcia-Ruflo’s performance; McConaughey naturally plays a slickster you like despite any skepticism, while Garcia-Ruflo’s Mickey seems like a stand-up guy from the jump. There is relatively little moral ambiguity in the game.
The show strives to insist otherwise, trying to convince audiences that Mickey’s personal and professional life is saturated with chaos and darkness. The season, based on Connelly’s novel “The Brass Verdict,” opens with an out-of-law Mickey, who has just battled an addiction to painkillers. He is back in his profession when he unexpectedly inherits a practice from a friendly acquaintance – who is also a brand new murder victim. This murder ties into the high-profile trial of tech mogul Trevor Elliott (Christopher Gorham), providing the narrative backbone of the season.
The storyline also oddly undermines the character’s central gimmick by giving Mickey an undesirable traditional desk, also passed on by his colleague. He always circles LA from court to client and back again, driven by makeshift driver and fellow recovering drug addict Izzy (Jazz Raycole), giving him the opportunity to explain various elements of his job to his sidekick. pointed (and, of course, the spectators). At first, other cases from Mickey’s legacy practice offer smaller-scale client insight, but the appealing setting for the Cases of the Week is largely overlooked, in today’s television style.
In this serialized style, “The Lincoln Lawyer” is a pretty easy watch. Kelley brings professionalism to the project, but not the quirkiness of its most beloved shows; the dialogue is full of verbal cliches and lazy shortcuts (including semi-absurd cracks on millennials from characters who themselves are millennials or months away from qualifying).
The biggest problem – and one at odds with Kelley’s past strengths – is that Mickey isn’t all that interesting. All of his supposed personal flaws are toned down and toned down: yes, he has two ex-wives, district attorney Maggie (Neve Campbell) and his gal-Friday assistant Lorna (Becki Newton), but he’s on good terms with both. of them, while yearning to return to domestic life with Maggie and their daughter Hayley (Krista Warner).
His addiction is left almost entirely off-screen, and his efforts to “stay clean” mostly involve him trying to avoid alcohol, just to be safe – even in recovery he goes above and beyond! His work as a defense attorney is sometimes described as opportunistic, but has a clear moral underpinning. All supposedly sketchy practices are relegated to revelations like lawyers trying to skew juries in their favor during selection.
Some of that stuff is still pretty fun. In fact, that jury selection sequence in episode five is a highlight, despite its familiarity. But there have been plenty of shows about lawyers, so it’s hard to get excited about a traveling hotshot that’s actually a weighted good guy with a desk, or plot twists that come with clockwork regularity rather than a real panache.
At the end of the ten-episode season, “The Lincoln Lawyer” passed the time without bothering to defend himself.
“The Lincoln Lawyer” is now streaming on Netflix.