Sun 19 Oct 2014
The Judge is a rather classical combination of family drama and court drama, enjoying a couple of fine actors in lead roles that will land them some place in or close to the area of the Academy Awards candidacies. It’s solid but rather conventional cinematography, and as I understand the first output of a new production enterprise where Robert Downey Jr. is placing some of the money earned by the best-paid actor in Hollywood today. As a capitalist Mr. Downey Jr. seems to like conservative, low risk investment.
Hank Palmer (Downey) is a successful and filthy lawyer who helps people rich enough to pay him to get away in the American courts of law even if they are obviously guilty. When his mother dies he returns for what should be a one or two days unwanted family reunion in the mid-west city of birth too small for his ambitions. As much as he dislikes the trip he is also rather disliked by a quite non-functional family run by a tyrannical father (Robert Duvall) who is also the judge practically running the place, a man admired by half of the town (the good one?) and hated by the other half (the bad one?). When his father is accused of murder Hank will find himself defending him for once with truth and justice as goals, while all the past he was running of for the last two decades risks to overwhelm him.
The relation between father and son is enhanced by the intense acting of Downey Jr. and Duvall which may both compete for the Academy Awards a few months from now. Director David Dobkin seems to have previously dealt with comedies only, The Judge being his first exploration of a ‘serious’ thematic. He make a few mistakes on the road – the film is too long, and the treatment of the subject too heavy and conventional to my taste. It’s not bad cinema, it is just so expected. I hope that better contenders will show up on the road to the Awards between now and February 22, 2015, the date of the ceremony at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, LA.