The Judge

Posted October 14, 2014 by in


Total Score

3/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: dramedy
Director: David Dobkin
MPAA Rating: R (for strong language)
Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga
Length: 141 minutes
Release Date: 10/10/2014
Studio: Warner Bros. (presents), Big Kid Pictures, Team Downey, Village Roadshow Pictures
What We Thought

The film devolves into a heavy, weepy melodrama, but benefits from strong performances from RDJ and Duvall.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
While in the middle of a trial, defense attorney Hank Palmer learns that his mother has passed away.  He asks for a continuance, and returns home to the small town of Carlinville, Indiana for the funeral.
     Hank (Robert Downey Jr.) hasn’t been home in years, and is a stranger to his own family, brothers Glen and Dale (Vincent D’Onofrio and Jeremy Strong).  His father, Joseph (Robert Duvall), a county judge, regards him coldly.  However, Hank and is father are soon forced to come to terms with one another when Joseph is suspected of killing Mark Blackwell (Mark Kiely), whom he had put away for 20 years for murder.
     Hank convinces his father that he should represent him.  Hank is a good lawyer, a pragmatist who knows how to win a case ethically within the bounds of the law.  His father, on the other hand, is bound as much by idealism as by his own pride, and as we all know, pride goeth before the fall.
     The Judge is equal parts comedy and tragedy, and RDJ has the comic timing for the former, and a guarded vulnerability for the latter.  Even in scenes when he is doing nothing more than walking or sitting, he’s magnetic, a sign of his strong screen presence.  Duvall embodies the decency and stubbornness of the elder Palmer, and the film is founded on the chemistry between the two actors.
     As a story, The Judge explores Hank’s backstory much more than it needs to, as Hank reconnects with Samantha (Vera Farmiga), an old flame of his.  The film is already about a relationship–a father-son feud, and the film doesn’t need more character drama.  Throw in bonding with his own daughter (Emma Tremblay), and an undercooked tension between his brothers, and what you have is a story that lacks focus, pushing two-and-a-half hours running time.
     In the final stretch, the film devolves into a heavy, weepy melodrama.  This is the kind of thing that Clint Eastwood, who has a light touch, would know how to handle.  It’s overly-sentimental, and doesn’t quite ring true.
     Still, in a cinema landscape dominated by superheroes and YA adaptations, The Judge is a decent dramedy for an adult audience, something that theaters don’t get enough of.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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