The Judge: Film Review


This is the first time I’ve seen Robert Downey Jr. as anything besides Tony Stark/Iron Man and it’s quite hard to imagine him as anyone else – especially as his character here is still the same egotistical, arrogant fast talking big shot. The film is good but it just doesn’t quite reach the emotional mark it is clearly aiming for.

Downey Jr. stars as Hank Palmer, a successful lawyer living in Chicago who thinks he is God’s gift basically. He has a tumultuous relationship with his father Joseph (Robert Duvall) and the pair have built up years of grudges and resentment, which come to head when Hank returns to his hometown in Indiana for his mother’s funeral. Things get a bit more complicated when Joseph is accused of murder and Hank offers to defend him.


In all honesty, I can’t quite place why this didn’t tick all the boxes for me. Downey is charismatic enough to make you like his character despite all his flaws and this is the first time I’ve seen him show raw emotion in a long time. However, he does not look bad once – he looks amazing in fact – whereas Duvall gives his all and is not afraid to look weak and dirty. They have a great chemistry but I did not feel their hostility radiating across the screen. It was in the script, you knew it was there in the dialogue but it was not fully realised.

This film had all the ingredients to be this great, powerful movie with a big emotional ending but it lacks the punch and I’m not entirely sure how or why. I think the lead characters could do with more layers – their resentment and grudges are repeated a lot – but there is not much more than that until we get to the bottom of the problem. Some of their arguments where fab and juicy and I wanted more of those. I saw the ultimate endgame coming miles away so it was not sad and the courtroom action in the end lacked the tension it needed because you don’t care THAT MUCH if Billy Bob Thornton’s character sends Joseph goes down or not.


The only characters I cared about were Vera Farmiga as Hank’s high school sweetheart and his brothers Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Dale (Jeremy Strong). While you obviously want Hank and Joseph to patch things up, they are clearly very different people so it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they didn’t.

On a positive note, the film looked amazing, especially the setting. I liked that this is essentially a family drama rather than a justice/judicial movie. The acting leads were great but Downey seems to be playing the same character yet again. The movie is a whopping 142 minutes long and it could have been massively chopped down and something in the dialogue or direction needed tweaking to give the emotional punch and weight it could have achieved.


Released today 

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