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.
My Take – This is one of those rare films that tell a strong story without selling out to the usual Hollywood exaggerations. Firstly the trailer’s advertised the film as it as a courtroom drama with some RDJ humor thrown in. But instead is more about the lead’s struggle with his father and to accept where he came from. It’s about identity, family, and all the messiness and contradictions of life, with a murder trial thrown in.
The story itself is fairly cliched. A lawyer (Robert Downey Jr) in the middle of a messy separation returns home for his mother’s funeral. His estranged father (Robert Duvall) doesn’t want anything to do with him. He rekindles romance with an old flame (Vera Farmiga). It’s the performances though that make it engaging and stop it from potentially being just another dramedy out there. The film is beautifully directed by David Dobkin. There are many very funny moments as well as many touching moments between father and son, brother and brother to keep the tension of the court floating in a light air. The film does suffer from the classic issue of having too many subplots as a result running a bit too long for its own good. Yes, it took its time establishing characters and background of this family, it touched on a hint of a mystery and disease and death and love and despair and redemption. But was all that necessary? I am still not sure I have the answer to that.
This movie is definitely worth sitting through for amazing performances by both Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall, who could both be up for Oscar nominations for their roles as the son and father, respectively. Their scenes are strong and emotional. Even though at times RDJ cant help himself but play the Tony Stark arc. There are also strong supporting performances from Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Dax Shepard, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Jeremy Strong. Nonetheless, “The Judge” is, above all, an audience’s film, meaning that most people who shall see this film will, love it, and find themselves reflecting on life, their family, and themselves. Worth a watch.
Director – David Dobkin
Rated – R
Run Time – 141 minutes