The Lincoln Lawyer has some good things going for it, not the least being a gripping portrayal by lead actor Matthew McConaughey. He plays a character for whom the word cynicism could have been invented, and he plays it well.

Mick Haller is a streetwise Los Angeles lawyer who knows his way around a courtroom as well as he does a barroom. He’s extremely competent in both settings, and conducts most of his business from the back seat of his big black Lincoln Town Car.

He’s chauffeured around by his equally streetwise Afro-American employee, Earl (Laurence Mason, The Take) because of a DUI charge for which his licence had been lifted, but is now restored.

The chauffeur is now superfluous, but Haller still presumably gets a charge out of being driven around the seedier parts of town that are his stock-in-trade.

Haller defends lower-rung racketeers, prostitutes, drug dealers and bikers, and he charges them steeply for his expert skills.

When one of the many bondsmen he keeps on a string tips him off to a seemingly lucrative case that involves a respectable member of society for a change, Haller goes right for the big money.

Ryan Phillipe (Gosford Park) plays Louis Roulet, the baby-faced son of a couple who are wealthy real-estate magnates.

He’s been accused of beating up a prostitute, but he claims that he’s innocent, and has been framed by the call-girl and one of her clients who knocked him on the head and then smeared him with the woman’s blood.

Despite his protestations of innocence and his squeaky-clean criminal record, Haller suspects that there’s more to Roulet than meets the eye.

Given Haller’s reputation and the usual company he keeps, it’s hard to comprehend how a rich kid and his parents wouldn’t opt for one of their clutch of gold-plated lawyers to mount a defence.

Sure enough, there’s a lot lurking below the surface, and Haller’s customary hard-boiled self-aggrandizement is soon shaken as he comes in for the challenge of his professional life.

Possibly for the first time, the concept of ethics comes into play for him, presenting him with a lawyer-client confidentiality dilemma that he can’t escape.

McConaughey, whose previous roles have been in such lightweight vehicles as Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days, really gets a chance to shine here as a character with some depth beneath his exterior of bravura.

He’s ably assisted by Marisa Tomei as his ex-wife, who still comes to his personal aid when she’s not opposing him on the stand as a prosecuting attorney.

The cast is well rounded-out by veteran actor William H. Macey, nominated for an Oscar for his role in Fargo.

He plays Haller’s investigator, who helps to dig up the dirt on Roulet as well as numerous other clients and adversaries.

The script is well adapted and condensed from a sprawling 400-page thriller of the same name by prolific mystery writer Michael Connelly.

The Lincoln Lawyer plays at 7:00 and 9:15 pm at the Qwanlin Cinema, and is rated 14A for sexual violence.