REVIEW: The Mend

25 12 2015

The MendMovies that toy around with genre, tone and mood rarely sit well with me. (Uneven is my choice word for such experiences.) Occasionally, such experiments work, and I am more than happy to garner lavish praises on films that do. The vast majority, however, are just scripts with issues that needed fixing prior to cameras rolling.

Writer/director John Magary’s “The Mend,” on the other hand, is a film trying its hand in a number of different styles not to see how well they can blend. Rather, Magary attempts to see how porous the borders are between genres. He looks less for fluidity and more for malleability.

“The Mend” starts off like a literate Baumbach comedy both celebrating and mocking the New York intelligentsia. Once it seems settled, the film shifts into the character study of a slacker, Josh Lucas’ hapless Mat. This is the first movie I can think of that subverts Lucas’ good looks, not using them as an easy signifier for success or good favor. He’s all the better for it, drawing on darker parts of his persona to bring a more abrasive character to life.

Mat leeches off the success of his brother Alan (Stephen Plunkett), whose material successes continually attract the presence of his semi-estranged sibling. Tensions ratchet up slowly between the two of them, eventually reaching a boiling point in Alan’s cramped apartment. The explosion feels like something out of an Edward Albee play.

Does this mixture always work? Not necessarily. Certain sections are more compelling than others, making “The Mend” somewhat akin to that New York cabbie who alternates rapidly between the gas and the brakes. It’s a memorable ride – though definitely one that could have been a little smoother. B2halfstars

REVIEW: The Lincoln Lawyer

28 08 2013

I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for a legal thriller.  Though I don’t watch any of the “Law and Order” series, I’m pretty much game to get involved in any movie that takes place in America’s criminal justice system.  “The Lincoln Lawyer” is not a particularly notable entry into the genre, but it’s compelling and entertaining enough to make for a good watch.

Matthew McConaughey stars as the titular litigator Mickey Haller, a slightly crooked lawyer in the mold of George Clooney’s character in “Michael Clayton.”  He’s caught in entangling web of alliances and often finds himself in tough positions as a result.  His bind in “The Lincoln Lawyer” results after taking on a spoiled brat of a client, Ryan Phillipe’s Louis Roulet.  He’s been accused of beating a prostitute and ropes Haller into a devious master plan that will keep him out of jail.  Unwilling to be made a pawn in anyone’s game, Haller and his investigator Frank Levin (William H. Macy), start pulling their own strings.

The story, taken from the novel by Michael Connelly, is engaging and engrossing, just as any good page-turner feels as you grip it.  But as is often the case with such airport magazine stand mass-market paperback books, “The Lincoln Lawyer” keeps the events rolling by sacrificing character development.  While McConaughey’s performance (one of the earliest in his much-heralded comeback) is decent enough to propel the movie, it could have gone from merely good to GREAT by adding a few more layers of complexity to Haller.  But all in all, “The Lincoln Lawyer” is fitting for what it is: a breezy legal drama.  B2halfstars