Coming from the director who gave us Shanghai Knights and The Change-Up, it’s great to see a more serious/Oscar worthy effort from David Dobkin, and The Judge is exactly that.
Keeping his distance from his family, big shot city lawyer Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr) goes back to his childhood town for the funeral of his mother. During the opening of old wounds, his father, the town’s Judge (Robert Duvall) is suspected of murder. Hank is then forced to figure out the truth whilst reconnecting with his family.
It’s safe to say that The Judge is filled with the top end of Hollywood, with Oscar nominated actors and Winners. From the moment it was announced Robert Duvall would be playing Robert Downey Jr’s father (two of the most respected actors in Hollywood) in a film called The Judge, you can tell straight away that there would be some sort of family drama and not just courtroom drama. There is a good balance of both keeping you interested in both their professional and personal lives.
On the professional side of things, portraying a lawyer is fun and Downey Jr does it like a true pro. He has enough charisma and sarcasm (like always) that can fill a courtroom like Matthew McConaughey, but it was also great to see the more gritty side of Downey Jr when it came down drilling the facts into the jury’s heads to try and get them on his side and probing his father on the stand when it really mattered. He certainly took a step away from his Tony Stark persona that seems to be over riding his other huge successes in the past like the wonderful Chaplin.
On the personal side of things the saying “like father like son” and also “like mother like daughter” is very applicable. The tension between middle child Hank and the Judge is so raw and open for everyone to see and dwell in. It’s the good old argument of a father not being there but it’s played out so well, you can’t help but really feel the emotion that’s bouncing off the walls in the room to pull a tear from your eye with ease. Duvall is known for sucking you into the world he’s living in on screen and continues to bring his sheer brilliance to the rest of the cast. Slightly moving away from the family drama, Hank’s character is still witty, charismatic and charming enough to bring back old flames at his home town even though he has his own family drama back home in the city. From the moment the line “I’ll extract the truth from your ass like tree sap” is mentioned, you know for certain Downey Jr’s got game (watch out McConaughey).
Usually with courtroom flicks, there’s always a prick worthy lawyer on the other side, and in this case it’s Billy Bob Thornton, who plays the top notch lawyer Dwight Dickham who from the moment he is visible on screen, you see him flicking out his little, metal, fold-able cup in the way only a highly egotistical lawyer would. The only issue with Dickham was that they made him out to be the one to avoid, but in reality he wasn’t as bad-ass as he should have been but there was definitely potential.
With everything that’s being released recently on the big screen, it’s very refreshing to see a film you can actually relate to that isn’t about superheroes, a book adaptation that’s a franchise or a romance that will emotionally stab you causing a tear or two. The Judge will grip you in more ways than one and pull on those child hood memory strings you may have been holding back.