The Judge (15)
Directed by: David Dobkin
Starring: Robert Downey Jnr, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga & Billy Bob Thonton
Running time: 141 min
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.
Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jnr), a highly successful defender of law, gets a phone call from his estranged family telling him that his mother has died. Upon arrival, he is greeted by his two brothers and his father; Judge Palmer (Robert Duvall) who is clearly distanced from Hank.
However, things go from tragic to worse when his father is accused of murder. Hank prepares to defend his father and what ensues is not only a search for the truth in the law, but also the truths from Hank’s childhood past. Justice may be blind, but Hank and The Judge will have their eye opened as they look into the past to help each other with immediate future…
The Judge features two incredible contrasting performances; Robert Downey Jnr is incredible as the young-ish, wise-cracking, hot shot lawyer, who is just as quick with the put downs and cutting remarks as he is with quoting the law. However, the best performance of the picture is Robert Duvall.
His portrayal of the 72-year-old Judge is simply perfect as we see the character from the lofty highs from where he sits on his throne in court, to the very vulnerable lows (especially when he suffers the humiliation and indignity in his bathroom). This is surely the performance of a lifetime and one that award voters will certainly be taking note of!
With a brilliant script that effortlessly adds comedic remarks to heavy angry courtroom exchanges, interspersed with real family dilemmas, The Judge succeeds where many other dramas fail in that it neither bores the audience nor plays down to their ignorances of the technical proceedings.
There is however one exchange of dialogue towards the end of the film that completely dispenses with the high court room drama and plays out like a Sunday afternoon Hallmark channel made-for-tv melodrama. This exchange ruins the whole feel of the movie story-wise, but the performances themselves between Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jnr (not to mention Billy Bob Thornton as the Prosecutor) keep the audience captivated.
The Judge flows from the screen like a John Grisham novel, but with more drama, comedic elements and sentimentality akin to Catherine Cookson; one to watch for brilliant performances alone.
4 out of 5 Nerds