Cert: 15 Runtime: 141 mins Director: David Dobkin Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio and Jeremy Strong
My father is a lot of unpleasant things, but murderer is not one of them
Robert Downey Jr. has unsuited and dawned into the drama genre in The Judge. This film has a great calibre of actors including Robert Duvall and Ver Farmiga. I must say I wasn’t to intrigued by The Judge, it seemed a bit to straight forward for my liking. But we march on as we all do in life, what is The Judge about? A bigshot lawyer (Robert Downey Jr.) defends his father (Robert Duvall) on a murder charge in this compelling drama. Slick big city lawyer Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is shocked to learn that his mother has just died. Now he faces a journey into his past as he returns to Carlinville, Indiana, for the funeral. That means encountering his estranged, bull-headed father – formidable former town judge Joseph (Robert Duvall). To say that the two men don’t get along would be an understatement. But then Joseph finds himself in the dock of the court over which he presided for 42 years, charged with first-degree murder. Hank sets out to uncover the truth, building bridges with his family along the way.The Judge tries too hard to be both dramatic and light-hearted. Robert Downey Jr.’s sarcastic, fast-talking’, too-smart-for-his-own- good character is a synthesis of every post-drug rehab role he’s ever played. Which adds some welcome hilarity to the story, but every joke, every punch line comes at the worst time possible; either in the midst of a dramatic scene, or just after it, corrupting The Judge with a jumpiness that disconnects you from the film. And despite the bloated runtime, the script isn’t as dense as it should have been, and wastes time on useless tangents that are either ham-fisted in their delivery, or contribute nothing to the crux of the story.
That said, production quality in the Judge is high. The photography is exceptional, much of the beauty coming from to the scenic town of Jackson, Indiana, but also Janusz Kaminski’s utilization of contrasting colors and earth tones. Even Dobkin’s overuse of lens flaring works to some degree. Pity, then that the script is as jagged and inconstant as the scenery is captivating. But despite the scripts inconsistent and spastic nature, occasionally it lingers on Robert Duvall long enough for him to show us how a legend does his thing. The rest of the cast does a decent enough job, but their underdeveloped characters and the darty script never give them a chance to fully flex their talent.The Judge is the most average movie I’ve ever seen; a good concept poorly executed, a film with a good message that tries to be too many things. It’s heart is in the right place and it has a strong moral center, but it’s let down by a lack of effort from those behind the camera. So the dictum goes, “if you try to please everybody, you’ll end up pleasing nobody. The Judge will have its 5 seconds of fame during its time in theatres, then it will be forgotten, revived only years from now when it graces lists of films that are good, but you’ve never seen. Take that as you will.