The Judge Movie Review (by the Movie Slackers)
The Judge may travel some familiar ground, but what it does, it does well, thanks to Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall simply shredding the screen and knocking their roles out of the park. As a father and son who have never seen eye to eye, Downey has become a slick defender of mostly guilty perps, while Duvall has seen to righting wrongs and doing what is right. As the film open, Downey receives word his dear mother has past. He returns home to the fictional Carlinsville, Indiana for the service. His two brothers, Glen and Dale have chosen to stay behind and keep an eye on Mom and Dad. Dale is somewhat challenged but is a gifted photographer and documents just about everything. Glen owns the local tire shop and is married with kids. It seems he had a blossoming future as a baseball pitcher, but an auto accident when he was younger and Hank (Downey) driving, ended it with Glen’s hand permanently injured. This is a source of contention that has never been resolved. It takes a back seat, along with all of the other family issues, when Judge Palmer (Duvall) is arrested for killing a man with his car. The man killed is a criminal who Judge Palmer had sentenced years ago, rather lightly, only to have the criminal get out and commit a more heinous crime. Judge Palmer hates the man with a passion. Enough to kill him? Maybe, maybe not. The rest of The Judge is the trial that follows.
The Judge is cliched and predictable, to be sure. There is nothing here that you have not seen done before. But The Judge hooked me. For all of its overly melodramatic tones, this film is an engrossing and beautiful film. Downey and Duvall are standout and BOTH were worthy of Oscar nods, even though only Duvall was nominated. His Judge Palmer is a good man, honest and steadfast in his love for his family and community. He is an honorable man who knows he is looked to as an example in his community and he has always lived his life responsibly, for the most part. His only vice was booze and he even gave that up, too.
Hank (Downey) has always marched to the beat of a different drum, but he has moved away and became of very successful lawyer himself. He is married, for the moment and has a lovely little girl. Judge and Hank were always butting heads and nothing has soften over time. The prosecutor is Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thorton) and he is determined to put Judge away for murder one. Thorton does a great job of projecting strength as the prosecutor but is also shown to be a compassionate man, as well. Other circumstances come to light which alter decisions, lives and ultimately the trial. They are heartbreaking and this film is especially effective at tugging on the heartstrings, and in my case, I was so interested in the characters I was only too willing to let The Judge do its thing. This is not a great film in the classic sense. But what it does, works so well that you will be glued to the screen. The cast is exemplary with Downey and Duvall, Vincent D’Onofrio as Glen and James Strong as Dale, two brothers I would love to have around. The high school sweetheart still pines for Hank, Samantha (Vera Farmiga). She has stayed on in Carlinsville and now owns the local restaurant and has a fiesty daughter named Carla, well played by Leighton Meester. Ken Howard is stoic as the presiding judge in the trial and Dax Shepard surprised me with a light but effective performance as Hank’s co-council. Thomas Newman, who never has disappointed me as a film score composer, delivers once again with a tremendous score that is worth purchasing; beauty and sadness, all in one.
The Judge will hit everyone in the heart, because we all have our parents to eventually care for. This can be a personal film for all of us, as we watch our parents age and need more attention. This is a powerful film from start to finish, despite being familiar in many ways. I did not care. I loved these characters and cared about them. There are so many quiet scenes in The Judge that really touched my heart and made me miss my own parents all the more. Trust me, you will want to hug yours after seeing The Judge.
This review was written by JohnnyTwoToes of the Movie Slackers.
The Judge is Rated R for language
The Judge – Run Time is 2 and 1/2 hours