141 Min | Drama | October 2014
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Director: David Dobkin
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga
The Judge Review: “The Judge” is one of those films that with decidedly lesser and less passionate talent could’ve been a more evident hot mess than it already is. In its current form, however, it’s a rare hot mess that succeeds mostly because of the audacity and chemistry of its performers, on top of the entertaining content it provides us, despite its lengthy runtime. “The Judge” concerns Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.), an immensely successful, arrogant Chicago lawyer, who returns to his hometown of Carlinville, Indiana for his mother’s funeral, leaving behind an unsatisfied wife who wants out of their marriage and a young daughter who knows a bit too much for her age. Upon returning to Carlinville, Hank reconnects with his two siblings and realizes all the reasons him and his father, Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), have severed all ties to each other.
“The Judge” suffers from the classic issue of having too many subplots. In my plot summation, I mentioned two (the divorce and the murder trial), yet that doesn’t even scratch the film’s surface of how many bases it attempts to hit. Aside from trying to play up the “father never loved me” storyline, “The Judge” attempts to build so much around the life of Hank that it can’t keep up. We have a divorce, the rekindling of an old relationship, a possible deadbeat dad situation, a vague future, and that’s not even considering the subplots and other features plaguing the other characters, like Joseph and his other two sons. There is simply too much occurring in “The Judge” to effectively appreciate everything it has to offer.
Nonetheless, “The Judge” is, above all, an audience’s film, meaning that most people who go to see this film will, in turn, love it, and find themselves reflecting on life, their family, and themselves. I’d be lying if said this film didn’t hit personal chords, depicting a troubled relationship between father-and-son that I have encountered in life countless times, with attitudes and stances greatly mirroring my own reality. For this reason, among the fact that the film’s performances are truly something to take in and the film’s human interest never loses sight despite a heavy dependence on storyline, I’m recommending “The Judge” to people as a solid piece of adult drama with a modern, human focus, we hardly ever get those anymore by someone who’s name isn’t Alexander Payne.