There is just something about a man with daddy issues… Before we get started, you should know that this is your standard hometown boy makes good movie, complete with a workaholic with marriage troubles, who had a disapproving father that needs his help but won’t admit it.
Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is your standard sleazy defense lawyer with a successful career living in the big city. All that changes when his estranged father, Judge Joe Palmer (Robert Duvall) is accused of murder and Hank needs to return to his small Indiana town to defend him. While there, he rekindles a relationship with the coolest chick in town, Samantha (Vera Farmiga), and his estranged brothers, Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Dale (Jeremy Strong). Complicating matters is the recent death of their mother and the Judge’s wife, which makes the ornery old man even more ornery than usual. As a bit of comic relief, enter Hank’s tween daughter (Emma Tremblay).
There is too much going on in the movie. It tries to mesh family drama with a major murder case, but there are so many story lines, it’s impossible to follow every single one. It’s like watching forty episodes of Law and Order, all at once.
I am very glad to see Robert Downey Jr. outside of an Iron Man costume, though. I forgot that this guy actually knows how to act. In a character that should be utterly unlikable, Downey brings redemption and vulnerability. With Downey playing him, Hank wouldn’t be my new best friend, but I wouldn’t unfriend him on Facebook either.
Robert Duvall is great as the grumpy old man judge. He plays his holier than though character well and makes you understand why Hank would choose to cut him out of his life. The relationship between the two takes center stage, with the hit-and-run trial the judge is facing becoming nothing more than a backdrop to the family drama already brewing.
The run time is RIDICULOUS. Two hours and 22 minutes is way too long for so much drama, even with all the different story lines going on. If you’re trying to write a political thriller, an hour and a half is more than sufficient. Two hours just leaves your audience exhausted. Save the two hour run times for movies like Lord of the Rings. Ninety minutes is more than enough for a legal thriller. Hell, Law and Order does it in only 60 (not including commercial breaks).
The movie feels like a desperate grab for an Oscar, from a guy who is tired of playing all his parts in a latex body suit. It tries so hard to be deep and serious that is comes off as a whiney movie about the first world problems of rich white dudes.
My judgment on The Judge is that it’s a mediocre effort that is slightly elevated due to the power of its leads. This overlong, overstuffed movie fails to satisfy. It’s hard to like the leads or even understand their motivation. While it might be a decent way to pass an hour, you’ll find yourself getting bored and losing interest about 80 minutes in… which is exactly where this movie should have ended.
WE GAVE IT: 3.5 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!