Plot: Anton Adam (William Powell) is a lawyer with principles, an honest man who works hard to help those who need assistance, including immigrant clients most attorneys would refuse to serve. He might not look as stylish or fancy as some of his peers, but he gets results and has a loyal secretary Olga (Joan Blondell), as well as his dedication to justice. A high profile win against a racketeer earns him a lot of attention and an offer to join a more powerful law office, where he is given the case of a showgirl in need of assistance. This is not the world Anton is used to and when things begin to unravel, will this honest lawyer find himself taken down under false pretenses and if so, who is responsible for his predicament?
Entertainment Value: Lawyer Man entangles us in a web of corruption that reaches epic proportions, painting just about everyone with that tainted brush and giving us a bleak, but believable outlook. The idea of corruption within civic entities, politicians, the courts, and even law enforcement is not a new one, but here is presented as systemic, rather than isolated pockets of corrupt individuals. This makes things more tense and the trap laid for Anton is even more vicious, though the movie is also careful not to present the lead as some kind of saint. Anton has his share of flaws and this is exploited by those who seek to do him harm, but at the same time, he fell all too willingly into the trap, so the movie doesn’t see him through rose colored glasses. I appreciated how the narrative was woven toward the conclusion, as Lawyer Man doesn’t cut corners and gives us a proper finale. I found this to be a well written, well executed movie that deals with tough subjects, but takes no shortcuts and offers no easy answers.
The cast here is quite good, with William Powell in a familiar role, but one he is well suited to handle. His natural charm helps keep him likable despite his promiscuous ways that land him in trouble. But he doesn’t skate by on charisma here, as he is given some real substance to work with at times and he rises to the challenge, especially in a blistering rant at one point. Powell shines in the role and was an ideal choice for the likable, but flawed lead. As good as Powell is, Joan Blondell is able to steal more than her share of scenes, with her usual charm and screen presence. She adds some comic relief and also skewers Powell’s Anton for his womanizing, so even in a supporting role, she is memorable. She is able to convey so much with just facial expressions or merely with her eyes, a remarkable talent that stands out even in smaller roles. The cast also includes Helen Vinson, Alan Jenkins, and David Landau, the last of which has some great moments and deserved more screen time here.