The Judge (2014)

I really wanted to see The Judge when it came out because of its cast, but I missed it when it was in theatres and then I kept putting it off because of its running time. Eventually, I even forgot what the film was about so I kept putting it off, mainly because I was afraid it'd be a long, boring courtroom drama, which is crazy since I love courtroom dramas. 

The film follows Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.), a successful and unethical defence attorney in Chicago. When his brother Glen (Vincent D'Onofrio) calls to let him know that their mother has passed away, Hank returns to his hometown in Indiana and soon ends up being the lawyer to his estranged father (Robert Duvall), the town's judge, who is suspected of murder. 

It's a very simple story that should not take 2 hours to be told and yet it does as there are way too many subplots —Hank Palmer's divorce, Hank Palmer's high school girlfriend who has a college-age daughter who could be his daughter, and the courtoom drama. Not to mention the subplot going on with Glen's two sons— that go nowhere and fail to be interesting. Despite this, The Judge manages to be a very compelling and engaging drama as it mainly centres on the father-and-son relationship, which makes you reflect on how hard it is to grow up not without your father's approval, but with his disapproval, and the complex relationship between siblings. 

The characters needed more work too as they all are a bit stereotyped, lack development —especially when it comes to supporting characters—, their characterization isn't always consistent, and some —the prosecuting attorney, to mention one— are given a backstory for no reason at all, which kind of ends up creating another subplot. 

The performances, on the other hand, are great. Robert Downey Jr. gives one of the, if not the best performance of his career as Hank Palmer. He nails the dramatic scenes and brings to be screen his typical magnetism, which will make you like him/his character even though he is a horrible man —he displays too much cockiness at the beginning of the film though. Robert Duvall is, however, the Robert who absolutely steals the show here. He's fearless in portraying an ageing man who is losing it, and proves that an actor doesn't need a great script to give a great, Award-worthy performance. Vincent D'Onofrio, who unfortunately has way less screen time than he deserves, is terrific as Glen as he brings depth to a character who had none on paper. The cast also features Jeremy Strong who does good in the role of Hank's mentally challenged younger brother, Dale, Billy Bob Thornton and Vera Farmiga, both talented and both wasted with characters they can't do anything with. 

Warner Bros. Pictures
David Dobkin's direction is also pretty solid. Although he relies a little too much on clichés and because of the tone, the film at times feels like a sappy melodrama, he manages to make a heavy, serious film with some humour and playfulness in it, rather than the opposite, which is exactly what I was expecting from him. Also, I found the slow pacing to fit the story very well —the long running time did not bother me at all. Actually, time flew by as I was watching this flawed and yet touching, emotional and absorbing film.


  1. Great review! This is one film that I do love even though it has all these flaws but it still seems to work. This is where the actors do so much more to a not so great script especially in the scene where Downey’s character helps his dad in the bathroom. This is a difficult scene but handled with compassion and dignity despite the indignity of what the old man must go through. The little girl is great as well

    1. I'm hating myself so much for not mentioning that scene. It was handled so well, I could not believe it.

  2. Grazie per avermi fatto ricordare questo film di grandi attori (Duvall su tutti) purtroppo quasi dimenticato... eppure è un film robusto e convincente, forse non eccezionale come sceneggiatura ma decisamente ottimo a livello di recitazione e interpretazioni. Uno di quei film che si rivedono sempre volentieri :)

  3. I started watching this one and fell asleep, but I wanted to give it more of a chance for RDJ. Sometime, perhaps.