The Judge (9/10)
by Tony Medley
Running Time 140 minutes.
OK for children.
Robert Downey is one of the best actors of his generation. Unfortunately
he has squandered his talent on rubbish like Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock
Holmes debacles and the Iron Man franchise. While I enjoyed the first
Iron Man, superhero movies are idiotic, and don’t need actors of
Downey’s caliber to draw audiences who want little more than mindless
While Downey gives something extra to each of these performances, the
material is simply not up to his talent. I know that he does it for the
money, and there is nothing wrong with that. But my dream is that some
of these actors who are worthy of much higher quality productions will
realize that when you can command $20 million per film and more,
probably plus profit participation, money should cease to be important
and the integrity of their gift should be paramount.
Finally, he gets an intelligent, sensitive script (Nick Schenk and Bill
Dubuque from a story by director/coproducer David Dobkin and Schenk).
Downey plays a lawyer, Chicago defense attorney Hank Palmer, who returns
to his small hometown where his father, Joseph (Oscar-winner Robert
Duvall), is the long time judge of the town. Hank and Joseph have been
estranged for a long time. His return results in his reestablishing
communications with his brothers, Glenn (Vincent D’Onofrio) and
simple-minded Dale (Jeremy Strong), and his former girlfriend, Samantha
Powell (Vera Farmiga).
When Judge Joseph is accused of murder, and is faced with a vicious
prosecutor, Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton in a good performance as
the cold-hearted, revenge-seeking lawyer) he wants nothing to do with
Hank defending him, so he retains a local dolt, C.P. Kennedy (Dax
Shepard) to defend him much to Hank’s chagrin. Hank finally takes over,
which provides the movie with its guts and raison d’ętre, the
relationship between Hank and Joseph.
It’s scintillating to see these two outstanding actors parry with one
another with an excellent script and a fine director. Even though it’s
all talk, Dobkin keeps the pace alive during the entire almost 2 ˝ hour
film. The music (Thomas Newman) is exceptional, as is the cinematography
(Janus Kaminski). This is a first-rate production which does the fine
October 4, 2014