13th Feb2015

‘The Judge’ Review

by Richard Axtell

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, Leighton Meester, Ken Howard, Emma Tremblay, Balthazar Getty, David Krumholtz, Grace Zabriskie, Denis O’Hare, Sarah Lancaster, Lonnie Farmer | Written by Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque | Directed by David Dobkin


Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is a big city lawyer, known for being one of the best around. When he returns to his childhood home for his Mother’s funeral, he is soon drawn into a losing battle when his estranged father (Robert Duvall), the town’s judge, is suspected of a murder he doesn’t remember committing. Setting out to discover the truth, Hank begins to reconnect with the family he walked away from years before and the town he thought he had left for good.

The main highlight of this film was definitely the performances of Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall. ‘The Roberts’ bring the drama and intensity to The Judge as they face off as estranged father and son on a whole host of issues. Not once did I feel their were performances ever less than fantastic in this courtroom-with-extra-drama film and I was more left both speechless and heartbroken on multiple occasions. Dispersed between this heavier, more challenging scenes, mainly thanks to Robert Downey Jr’s wise cracking ways, there are plenty of humorous moments too. However, even with these light hearted scenes, The Judge doesn’t fail to make an impact which will stick with you long after it has finished.

Obviously, some of you might see Downey Jr and expect an action heavy explosion-fest such as Iron Man or Sherlock, but that is not the case here. The Judge explores issues such as loss, family and identity in a well crafted way (through the age old tradition of arguments and shouting!) so don’t expect bullets to be flying, unless those bullets are words or tears. Sometimes both. By that I mean metaphorical bullets of course. Words and tears aren’t actually fired out of…. You know what? Let’s move on.

One problem people might have with The Judge is that it is very long. For the most of it, that isn’t an issue thanks to Duvall and Jr’s powerful acting skills which (in my humble opinion) are definitely Oscar worthy. But there are a few side plots which could have easily been left out. There is a story about Jr’s character’s and a barmaid which, although quite funny and linking to his past in the town, doesn’t do much more than that. It didn’t seem to bring anything really to the main plot except maybe just to lighten to mood. Which, to be fair, is quite relieving at points, but you do start to question its worth once the film hits the two hour mark and carries on. I suppose you could look at it as ‘more bang for your buck’, if you are the optimistic type, but when you are drawn away from the story of Hank and his father it does get a little bit annoying.

However, overall I feel that The Judge plays together into a very well made film which seems to jump between tense, heartbreaking and humorous with every turn. I really enjoy a film that isn’t afraid to challenge and make you think. The Judge delivers on both those aspects, even if it does do it for a bit longer than needed. I definitely say this film is worth a watch.

The Judge is released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 2nd.


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