Director: David Dobkin
Writers: David Dobkin, Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, Leighton Meester, Ken Howard, Emma Tremblay, Balthazar Getty, David Krumholtz, Grace Zabriskie, Denis O'Hare, Sarah Lancaster, Lonnie Farmer, Matt Riedy, Mark Kiely, Jeremy Holm, Catherine Cummings, Tamara Hickey, Paul-Emile Cendron, Ian Nelson
Synopsis: Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town's judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language including some sexual references
8 / 10
- Robert Duvall puts in a great performance that's truly worthy of an Oscar
- Robert Downey Jr.'s smart wit and dramatic flair is a perfect mesh for Duvall's stubborn no nonsense attitude.
- Great script chalked full of surprises.
- Direction was good
- Decent cinematography
- The film drags at times.
- Has too many pointless scenes and subplots that hindered the story.
- The ending was unrealistic
Defend Your Honor
Although "The Judge" received a lot of mixed reviews last year, it's surprisingly better than most film critics give it credit for. The movie centers around a lawyer named Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.), who struggles with the predicament of defending his father in a first degree murder case, while reconnecting with his estranged family.
In spite his best efforts, his father gives him a hard time about it, as they've never been all that close. During their brief time together, their egos clash. Sparks fly, as the past comes back to haunt them. It's an emotional turmoil of family issues combined with the court room drama that would easily put anyone on the edge of their seats.
It's a great story in a lot of ways, and I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't fun to watch. Sadly, the movie is bogged down by too many pointless scenes and subplots that tend to take away the story's overall theme.
For instance. The two scenes with David Krumholtz and Robert Downey Jr. were completely unnecessary to the film. Granted, the repartee between them is rather entertaining to watch, but it doesn't add anything to the story.
Another thing that doesn't make sense is the ending. When the murder trial reaches it's end, a sentence is cast, and it seems a bit unrealistic considering the circumstances. Now, I won't go into any details about it, in order to avoid spoilers. However, I will say that given the circumstances that happened, during the movie, that it's kind of surprising the sentence went the way that it did. Don't get me wrong, it is rather unexpected, and it certainly doesn't fall into the nonsensical Hollywood court room drama cliché ending that we're used to seeing.
However, after you watch the story play out, it seems a bit unrealistic that a jury would vote the way that they did given the circumstances, but maybe it's just me. Apart from those minor complaints, the rest of the movie is quite entertaining.
Robert Duvall gives an excellent performance playing the hard nosed senile old man, with a heart of gold and a short temper to boot. Robert Downey Jr. seems to play the same stereotypical quick witted smart a** that we're used to seeing him play in such films like "Back to School", "The Iron man Trilogy", and the "Sherlock Holmes" movies. However, it works well in this film, as Downey's quick wit is a perfect mesh with Duvall's stubborn attitude; which leads to arguably some of the movie's best moments.
Bill Bob Thornton plays the cunning prosecutor that's hellbent on sending Hank's dad to jail, but he never comes across as being another cliché antagonist. If anything, he's portrayed as a sympathetic character that merely believes in doing what he feels is right, yet we do see that he does have a bit of a soft spot, at the end. Granted, he doesn't outright say it, but you can tell from Billy's demeanor, around the end, how much guilt he felt about the case. It was subtle and sweet. Almost symbolic in a lot of ways; just like the ending to this story.
As I mentioned earlier, "The Judge" has a bit of a tendency to drag things out longer than it needs to be, which creates a few pacing issues along the way. Apart from those issues though, "The Judge" is arguably one of the most underrated films of last year.
Sure, it may not have the unique experience that "Boyhood" offers, and it won't impress anyone with it's colorful metaphors about life the same way "Birdman" will. However, if you're looking for a fairly decent drama that has an engaging story, then "The Judge" is worth checking out.
© 2015 Steven Daniels