A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
I remember watching the trailer for The Judge and being fairly excited. There’s a good cast, a decent premise, and I’m a sucker for serious films that tackle serious complexities of character. I shouldn’t have been excited. Despite the decent foundation for the film, The Judge has absolutely no clue as to what it truly wants to be. Is this a murder mystery? A tale of an estranged father and son and how they come back together? Is this is a family drama outside of just the whole father and son dynamic? The film never figures it out and the 141 minutes that exist just lag on and on and on until the end credits finally roll around.
The plot begins with the hotshot criminal defense lawyer named Henry “Hank” Palmer played by Robert Downey Jr. in Chicago who exudes his personality by basically telling the audience that he’s a hotshot. And he acts like an ass, because all successful characters can only show off their successes by behaving deplorably towards everyone else. It’s lazy filmmaking. He heads off to Indiana, where it’s revealed that he hates his father (Judge Joseph Palmer) and vice versa. It’s neat setup if a predictable one that’s been seen about a million times already. Anyhow, his father commits an accident whose victim was sentenced by Duvall himself. It becomes a public relations nightmare as people are quick to jump on the bandwagon that Joseph killed the victim on purpose. Hank is suddenly forced to defend his father out of duty, even though Joseph doesn’t even want him to do so.
This setup is fine and then it’s just beleaguered from there. The film’s tone is so inconsistent it’s nauseating, especially in the courtroom scenes. The ultimate flaw within the courtroom scenes that drags all of them down is that not for a single second do those scenes feel authentic. At every revelation the audience literally gasps and it takes every ounce of your bodily patience not to roll your eyes as fast as humanly possible. The overdramatic nature of the entire thing is vapid. There’s a tornado scene that is the largest, screaming metaphor I can recall in a film. We get it, the relationship between the father and son is turbulent, the tornado representation is completely unnecessary. The characters are all basically types, with most of them receiving as much nuance as the tornado. It’s long and overstays its welcome by about an hour. Even as it’s obvious the film is winding down, there’s ending after ending after ending after ending so by the time it actually ends, you’re exhausted. If you wanted to watch something related to the courtroom, watch To Kill a Mockingbird instead, and or The Good Wife.
Title: The Judge
MPAA Rating: R
Director: David Dobkin
Producer: Susan Downey, David Gambino, David Dobkin
Screenplay By: Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque
Story By: Nick Schenk, David Dobkin
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, Billy Bob Thornton
Music: Thomas Newman
Cinematography: Janusz Kamiński
Editing: Mark Livolsi
Production Company: Village Roadshow Pictures, Team Downey, Big Kid Pictures
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Running Time: 141 minutes
Release Dates: September 4, 2014 (TIFF), October 10, 2014 (United States)
Image Courtesy: iMDB