Director: David Dobkin
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, Billy Bob Thornton
Screenplay: Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque
141 mins. Rated R for language including some sexual references.
- Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert Duvall) [Awards Not Yet Announced]
What happens when a judge becomes the suspect in a murder?
In The Judge, Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr., The Avengers, Chef), a high-powered defense attorney, is going to home to bury his mother who has just passed. Being barely on speaking terms with his father Joseph (Robert Duvall, The Godfather: Part II, Hemingway & Gellhorn), a small-town judge, Hank wants to get in and out and on his way. But when Joseph Palmer is charged with vehicular manslaughter in the death of a man he let off easy years earlier, Hank stays on to help his father as the two rebuild their fractured relationship.
I would like to see Downey take on work that flexes his abilities better than the same character he has played in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and the recent Sherlock Holmes films. That being said, Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall have tremendous chemistry, or anti-chemistry, in their portrayal of father and son on the brink of collapse here. These two save an otherwise faulty film with some major flaws.
First of all, Hank’s rekindling of a friendship with old flame Samantha (Vera Farmiga, TV’s Bates Motel, The Conjuring) comes off as boring, unneeded, and somewhat silly. It could’ve been sliced and brought this film down to a more accessible two hours. The courtroom scenes are far less engaging than they should be, wasting the talented Billy Bob Thornton (Armageddon, Entourage) on what almost seems like an extended cameo at most.
The score here is great and the two leads have some truly tense and unforgettable scenes, but overall The Judge is too long and too little about actual courtrooms. The entirety of Joseph’s criminal trial is uninteresting and useless at building anything. The Judge could have been better under a more capable set of hands (director David Dobkin is known for his goofy comedies like Wedding Crashers and The Change-Up and less so for anything serious).
-Kyle A. Goethe