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The Lincoln Lawyer

John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Michael Pena and Matthew McConaughey star in the thriller "The Lincoln Lawyer."
A generally engaging central character, convincingly brought to life by Matthew McConaughey, lends verve to "The Lincoln Lawyer" (Lionsgate). Yet, though vibrant, this thriller is also frequently seamy and includes numerous moral and visual elements that narrowly circumscribe its appropriate audience.

McConaughey plays the titular Los Angeles attorney, Michael "Mick" Haller, a peripatetic defender of petty criminals whose classic Lincoln Continental—license plate: "NTGUILTY"—serves as his traveling office. Though given to ethical corner-cutting, Mick is fundamentally decent, and usually has his clients' best interests at heart.

On the personal side, too, Mick longs to reconcile with his ex-wife, Maggie (Marisa Tomei), a prosecutor with whom he has a young daughter.

When Mick is offered the chance to represent Beverly Hills playboy Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), scion of a powerful real estate dynasty, it seems like an easy step up to the big time. All the more so, since the high-profile case against Louis—he's charged with the attempted murder of a girl he picked up in a singles bar—at first seems quite flimsy.

Clues uncovered by Mick's intrepid investigator—and longtime friend—Frank Levin (William H. Macy), however, soon suggest a murkier scenario.

Driven by McConaughey's kinetic performance, director Brad Furman's adaptation of Michael Connelly's novel makes for a lively drama, both inside the courtroom and beyond.

But its protagonist's occasional scams and eventual resort to borderline vigilantism, his client's libertine lifestyle and—above all—acrid flashbacks detailing violent sexual assaults all mark this whodunit as off-limits for young or casual viewers. Well-grounded adults disposed to take on challenging material, on the other hand, may discern at least a few glints amid the grit.

The film contains considerable explicit violence—including scenes of rape—vigilantism issues, brief nongraphic marital lovemaking, fleeting rear nudity, a half-dozen uses of profanity, a few rough terms and much crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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Francis of Assisi: Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a sense of self-importance. 
<p>Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi's youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: "Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy." </p><p>From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." Francis became the totally poor and humble workman. </p><p>He must have suspected a deeper meaning to "build up my house." But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor "nothing" man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up all his possessions, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis' "gifts" to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, "Our Father in heaven." He was, for a time, considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, evokng sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking. </p><p>But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff" (Luke 9:1-3). </p><p>Francis' first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church's unity. </p><p>He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. </p><p>During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44), he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, "Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death." He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It consists in knowing one is welcomed and loved by God…. And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy: it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.

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