Friday, October 10, 2014

The Judge Movie Review

Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall (r) star in The Judge

The Prodigal Son Returns

141 minutes. That's an awful long time to hold one's attention, even if you're armed with two of the best actors in Hollywood (Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall.) Yet that's how long it takes to "get through" David Dobkin's courtroom drama The Judge. Oddly enough, it's a courtroom drama that spends precious little time in the courtroom, wisely shifting its focus to the family dynamic between the Palmers (specifically Downey and Duvall.) The two Roberts do their jobs ably; but chopping 41 minutes of running time would have made their efforts a lot more worthwhile.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: In "The Judge," Robert Downey, Jr. stars as big city lawyer Hank Palmer, who returns to his childhood home where his estranged father, the town's judge (Robert Duvall), is suspected of murder. He sets out to discover the truth and along the way reconnects with the family he walked away from years before.

What’s Best: Downey, Jr. is a joy to watch, even when he doesn't have an Iron Man suit to slip into. Finding someone capable to butt heads with, is no easy task; but Duvall (and his Judge Joe Palmer character) proves a most viable candidate. I could watch them snap at each other all day. Hank remarks early on, 'This family's a fu*king Picasso painting.' He ain't kidding.

What’s Not: Local boy Dobkin made his name on comedy (Wedding Crashers) but tries his hand at drama with mixed results. He leans heavily on Downey (and to a lesser extent, Duvall) but has trouble filling in the blanks. Billy Bob Thornton is sorely underutilized; and I would have preferred some level of tension inside the court (unless you count memory loss.) As for Hank's "romance" with Samantha (Vera Farmiga,) what's the point? It's pure filler at best, and adds little to the story. Apparently, the Guardian's Catherine Shoard agrees, with her stinging, "Farmiga is shot through seven layers of Vaseline." Ouch. And you thought I was harsh? If only Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson were around, to crash this party...

Best Line: Hank shows off his common sense/legal expertise with, 'Everyone wants Atticus Finch, until there’s a dead hooker in a hot tub.' True that! He even manages to fire off an equally effective, 'You're not capable of overriding a lifetime of moral superiority,' directed at dear old dad, during one of their many arguments.

Overall: Take Downey and Duvall away, and this movie's a bomb. Dax Shepard vomits. Vincent D'Onofrio's Glen laments (a lot) and Dale (Jeremy Strong) films. Seriously, that's about it. The courtroom drama pales in comparison to a bad rerun of Law & Order. All that's good/left is the aforementioned dynamic duo and a hefty runtime. In the end, all I seem to remember is squirming around in an uncomfortable movie theatre seat for almost an hour. What a shame.