The Films of Brad Furman
Buried Alive in the Blues
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The Lincoln Lawyer
Based on the book by Michael Connelly, The Lincoln Lawyer follows slick attorney Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey) as he agrees to defend a wealthy playboy (Ryan Phillippe's Louis Roulet) accused of battery - with complications inevitably ensuing as Mickey makes a series of shocking discoveries. Though basically entertaining from start to finish, The Lincoln Lawyer, for the most part, comes off as a prototypical legal thriller that seems to have emerged directly from a template for films of this ilk - as scripter John Romano offers up a surprise-free narrative that generally goes exactly where one might've anticipated (eg as soon as a certain supporting character first arrives onscreen, there's almost no doubt that he/she is destined to meet a grisly end). Director Brad Furman's decidedly deliberate sensibilities are exacerbated by his reliance on needless subplots, with the movie's ongoing emphasis on Mickey's on-again-off-again relationship with Marisa Tomei's Maggie McPherson undoubtedly standing as the most obvious example of this. There's little doubt, however, that The Lincoln Lawyer does improve steadily as it progresses, as the stellar (and unexpectedly riveting) courtroom scenes that crop up in the film's third act compensate for the otherwise stale atmosphere. (It's also impossible not to get a kick out of the movie's impressively populated supporting cast, which includes, among others, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, and Bryan Cranston.) The end result is a perfectly serviceable legal thriller that passes the time and gets the job done, but it's hard to envision the movie ever being ranked among the best that the genre has to offer.
An unmitigated disaster virtually from start to finish, Runner Runner follows Justin Timberlake's Richie Furst as he loses his life's savings in a game of online poker and decides to ask the owner of the site (Ben Affleck's Ivan Block) for his money back - with this ludicrous setup paving the way for a hackneyed and hopelessly by-the-numbers thriller. There's just never a point at which the viewer is wholeheartedly drawn into the deliberately-paced proceedings, with the movie's arms-length atmosphere perpetuated by a surprisingly underwhelming performance by Timberlake. Though he's been quite good in films like The Social Network and Black Snake Moan, Timberlake just doesn't possess the necessary gravitas or presence required of a leading man - with the actor's inability to command the screen especially noticeable during his scenes alongside Affleck (ie Affleck's certainly got that movie-star quality that Timberlake lacks). Far more problematic, however, is Brian Koppelman and David Levien's aggressively run-of-the-mill screenplay, as the scripters place a continuous emphasis on elements that couldn't possibly be more familiar and tiresome (ie the movie often feels as though it's emerged directly from a template for thrillers of this ilk). Runner Runner's completely uninvolving midsection leads into an action-heavy finale that's as boring as it is misguided, and it's ultimately impossible to downplay the rampant ineffectiveness of virtually every aspect of the proceedings.
Based on true events, The Infiltrator follows U.S. Customs officer Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) as he goes undercover to expose Pablo Escobar's money-laundering operations. Filmmaker Brad Furman, working from Ellen Sue Brown's screenplay, displays little interest in drawing the viewer into the movie's often impenetrable storyline, with the overly complicated and mostly context-free narrative compounded by an assortment of poorly-drawn characters - starting with Cranston's paper-thin protagonist (ie what's driving Mazur forward? why is he putting his family at risk? etc, etc). There's little doubt, too, that Furman's efforts at livening up the proceedings by employing a Scorsese-like aesthetic fall flat, as such larger-than-life visual antics, which are certainly not warranted by the material, lend the proceedings a palpably desperate feel (ie it's as though Furman is trying his hardest to transform the picture into something it simply isn't). The hands-off atmosphere is perpetuated by an overlong running time and often disastrously deliberate pace, and it's perhaps not surprising to note that the film grows more and more tedious as it slowly progresses - with the late-in-the-game (and thoroughly pointless) emphasis on Mazur's fake friendship with one of Escobar's top men (Benjamin Bratt's Roberto Alcaino) contributing heavily to the aggressively uninvolving vibe. By the time the seriously anticlimactic finale rolls around, The Infiltrator has squandered its strong cast and promising real-life setup to become one of the more overtly misguided endeavors to emerge in quite some time.