Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Emma Tremblay
Directed By: David Dobkin
Written By: Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque
Rating: R (US) Running Time: 2 hr 10 min
You know what? They should have called this film The Judged, or even The Life Trial. I mean, why try to be coy about it? Because for the most part, this film presents its intentions all too clearly, and plays out to a very predictable beat. Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.), a big city lawyer and defender of the corrupt, returns to his small hometown to attend his mother’s funeral. Waiting for him, a lifetime of unresolved issues with his family and an old ex-girlfriend. This story is very familiar, the setting, familiar, and the results … familiar.
So we’ve got the town’s senior judge, Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), his son, a take no prisoners lawyer from the big city, and a murder mystery to solve. Time for a good old-fashioned court room drama folks, because Joseph may have decided to correct a bad judgment call he made 20 years earlier, which sent a man free, and left a young woman dead. The drama that follows is par for the course, as a jury is selected, and the courtroom is filled with people ready to ‘ooooh’ and ‘arrrr’ every shocking revelation.
However, totally deriding this production as the latest ‘Lifetime TV’ movie of the week, would be really unfair. As the drama builds and the plot thickens, it wisely keeps returning the central conflict in this story; the relationship Hank has with his father. Which is a great place for it to be, because their story is a compelling one, and there are two great performances breathing life into it. Robert Duvall’s performance is credible, and touching, while Robert Downey Jr. manages to inject just enough vulnerability and humor into a character that could have easily been unlikable.
In the end, even though The Judge wears its heart on its sleeve, and arguably overstays its welcome by about 10 minutes. It’s still worth watching for its touching story of reconciliation, and the fine performances from its cast.
If you enjoy court room dramas with a dash of melodramatic sentiment, I think you’ll enjoy this one. This film is rated R for language and sexual references, but to be honest, that rating seems a little harsh to me.
This film would be serviced well enough with a regular DVD or streaming rental on your TV, laptop, tablet or phone.
There’s a really touching scene in the movie, where Joseph is feeling ill in the bathroom, and Hank comes to help him. I think it’s the first time in the movie that the father and son share a quality moment together, and it’s very nicely played by Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall.