By Nathan Brown
Part courtroom drama, legal thriller and family saga, The Judge is passionately acted and profoundly thoughtful, bringing two great actors to one screen.
The DVD hit shelves Jan. 27, so if you didn’t see it in the theatre, now’s your chance.
It’s been some time since Robert Downey Jr. has been seen as anything other than Tony Stark/Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes, so it’s refreshing to see him in a more human-like role as compared to these bigger than life characters.
Downey jumps into the arrogant, self-righteous onscreen role that he’s perfected, as he plays Hank Palmer, a hotshot attorney from Chicago. Hank is forced to return to his hometown in Indiana after his mother passes away. Inevitably old wounds resurface with his father (Robert Duvall), who is a judge in the small, tight-knit community, and whose strong morals and values have inevitably pushed his three sons away over the years. The boys simply refer to their father as “The Judge,” but Hank always goes head to head with him, not afraid to back down.
Before Hank is about to leave for Chicago, he is forced to abandon his flight and return home as his father is being accused of a hit-and-run, killing a man he once sentenced to jail. Hank reluctantly takes over as the defence attorney for his father’s murder trial. He watches helplessly as the case he thought would be a no-brainer takes a turn for the worse and his father’s health starts to fail. Hank starts to feel more compassion about The Judge’s predicament.
Duvall and Downey complement each other perfectly as a father-son pair. The trial is more of a background crisis, as the story really revolves around the father and son’s relationship.
Both actors give tremendous performances, making their characters like-minded, but different in entirely different ways. Hank is hotheaded, while The Judge is more seasoned and has a stronger sense of right and wrong.
Skillfully directed by David Dobkin, the film is intelligent and touching. It may just be another tale of a man meeting his humanity again after returning back to his hometown, but it also brings a certain uniqueness to the theme of a father and son repairing a broken relationship.
Those expecting a typical court drama will be surprised by the real focus of The Judge’s plot. Even though the court scenes play a part, the relationship story works well on its own, giving viewers a fresh story with memorable performances from both Downey and Duvall. I couldn’t look away because I was so captivated by the story unfolding and powerful performances by both actors.
I give The Judge four out of five stars.