- RatedNC16 /GenreDrama
In this movie, Robert Downey Jr plays Henry “Hank” Palmer, a big city lawyer who frequently bails out men who are likely guilty of their charges.
His mother’s death takes him back to his hometown, Carlinville, where he reunites with his siblings – younger brother Dale (Jeremy Strong) and older brother Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio) – as well as his estranged father, a long-serving town judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall).
The sad turn of events leads to an even worse situation when the judge is accused of a hit-and-run murder and Hank has to defend his father in court. Family secrets, psychological warfare and decade-old hatchets and feuds are brought to light.
What the movie does is essentially meld a standard dysfunctional family drama with a John Grisham-esque small-town law battle.
With the father-son dynamic at the heart of the film, the performances of the two “Roberts” really do power the film forward.
The two leading men deliver their usual high acting standards, even if they do stay on the familiar side, with Duvall playing another grouchy old guy and RDJ doing his best hyperverbal fast-talking thing –something even Vera Farmiga's character acknowledges in the movie.
GREAT EMOTIONAL MOMENTS
Both actors have great presence and are able to portray their opposing strong-yet-vulnerable personalities to convincing effect. This works great in tandem with the many complicated issues between the two characters, giving the picture some great emotional moments.
Even more surprisingly, the movie has a funny streak. Downey Jr’s comic sensibilities help out a lot here, and the acid-tongued humour from the two equally stubborn men help to bring some comic relief to the often heavy proceedings.
Frequent Spielberg collaborator Januz Kaminski handles the cinematography, and Midwestern America is really presented to the audience in all its glory.
It’s just a shame that some dubious writing and directing turn this into a plodding affair, instead of exploring the dynamics that form in masculine familial relationships. So despite the stellar performances from the cast, the movie doesn't seem to rise to its potential.
Director David Dobkin (‘Shanghai Knights’, ‘Wedding Crashers’, ‘Fred Claus’) and the scriptwriters saddle the movie with every cinematic cliche possible.
Unfinished business subplot with an old paramour in Hank’s hometown? Check. Random rival lawyer played by Billy Bob Thornton? Check. There are figuratively too many to list.
The movie seems to be almost fighting against the performances of the two male leads, making itself longer and more predictable with every second.
Still, despite the movie’s drawbacks, the fine cast does make for some easy entertainment.
‘The Judge’ opens in cinemas 16 October 2014