The Judge

"Weak"

The Judge Review


This generational drama strains so hard to be serious that it's almost laughable. Its big themes are only superficially addressed, while the bloated nearly two and a half hour running time could easily have been cut down simply by eliminating all of the emotive close-ups of actors with tears welling in their eyes. In other words, while there are the bare bones of a decent movie in here, it's been badly compromised to turn it into Oscar bait.

At least it starts well, with a sequence centred on Hank (Robert Downey Jr), a slick Chicago lawyer with a precocious daughter (Emma Tremblay) and an angry trophy wife (Sarah Lancaster) who has had enough. Hank's cold-hearted ways are a legacy of his estranged relationship with his father Joseph (Robert Duvall), the no-nonsense judge in a small-town Indiana town. Then Hank is called home when his mother dies, comforting his brothers Glen (Vincent D'Onofrio), whose injured hand ended his baseball career, and Dale (Jeremy Strong), who is mentally challenged. He also rekindles his youthful romance with waitress Sam (Vera Farmiga). Then Joseph is arrested for murder, and Hank steps in to help inexperienced lawyer CP (Dax Shepard) defend him against the shark-like prosecutor (Billy Bob Thornton).

There isn't a single subtle element in this film, as the script is carefully constructed to pull our sympathies back and forth even though both Hank and Joseph are deeply unlikeable grumps. Downey and Duvall are good enough actors to make them watchable, but director David Dobkin (The Change-up) hammers every sentimental scene home with far too much force. And the script is so simplistic that it chickens out before anything interesting happens. Even the court case lacks something compelling to draw the audience in. It certainly doesn't help that the characters are all deeply contrived. Just one example: there's a disability for each of the three brothers: physical, emotional and mental.

As a result, Shepard's petrified defender is the most engaging person on-screen, and he's completely sidelined by the screenwriters, perhaps because he was stealing focus from the designated awards contenders. And the same fate awaits the solid Farmiga and Thornton, who struggle to keep their roles from turning into cartoon characters. But the real problem is that this film's illusion of complexity is utterly fake. Far beneath the grandstanding, there might be a decent family drama trying to get out, especially since Duvall lends some quiet dignity to Joseph's predicament, and Downey adds some unpredictable charisma to Hank's shocking lack of people skills.

 


 



The Judge

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 141 mins

In Theaters: Friday 10th October 2014

Box Office USA: $46.1M

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Production compaines: Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros., Big Kid Pictures, Team Downey

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 46%
Fresh: 79 Rotten: 91

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Susan Downey, David Gambino

Starring: Robert Downey Jr. as Henry "Hank" Palmer, as Judge Joseph "Joe" Palmer, as Samantha, as Glen Palmer, as Dale Palmer, as Dwight Dickham, as Lisa Palmer, as Mike Kattan, Emma Tremblay as Lauren Palmer, as Judge Warren, as Carla, as Deputy Hanson, as Mrs. Blackwell, as Eric

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