Director – David Dobkin (Fred Claus)
Cast – Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, Leighton Meester
Plot – High end city lawyer Hank Palmer (Downey Jr.) must return home to his sleepy country town when his mother passes away and reacquaint himself with his estranged father Joseph (Duvall), the town’s local judge. When Joseph is accused of a premeditated murder, Hank must put his personal problems and their differences aside to protect the man that raised him.
“The law is the only thing capable of making people equal”
Review by Eddie on 20/02/2015
When the Academy Awards go ahead on the weekend and beam across the world to countless movie fans, they’ll be barely noticing The Judge’s 1 solitary Oscar nomination, a nomination for the always watchable Robert Duvall in a role that is baited perfectly for the token older statesmen nomination that occurs seemingly every year. This one lonesome nomination for a film that many talked up as a major contender mid-year is the perfect summation for a film that promised so much, yet delivered so little.
Filmed beautifully yet unquestionably without flair, acted well but by actors we’ve all seen be better, directed in a workmanlike yet without a beating pulse fashion by previous comedy developer David Dobkin and written often smartly yet frequently with a sense of coldness by Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque, The Judge does so many things right yet so many things equally so-so. The Judge is a film tailor made to feature cliché after cliché and not once do you not know where things are headed and for a film bordering on 140 minutes the various plot strands and side turns culminate in a film that has a lot to say without ever developing them to their fullest extent which is a real shame considering the pedigree and story potential on offer.
With a cast of experienced, professional performers at his disposal, Dobkin really struggles to get much out of his troops, even Duvall despite the Oscar nomination is slightly off the boil in a role that at times can become downright embarrassing for the poor old guy. Downey Jr. in another take on his Tony Stark persona really needs to take a step back from his fast talking, wiser than all rich guy roles that have seen him become almost a self-parody of the performances that saw him back to the A-List. Downey Jr. and Duvall share some nice moments together whether they are bickering or enjoying each other’s company, but as solo turns there is nothing much to ride home about. It’s hard to pinpoint how such a varied cast (which includes Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio and Billy Bob Thornton), a decent story set up and a pedigree production could produce such good but disappointingly average final product.
The Judge perhaps needed a wiser head to adjudicate it’s makings, Dobkin seemingly struggling with his newly found dramatic mojo, as it’s not hard to see why The Judge became such a non-event upon release that has seen it disappear from memory, awards shows and critics minds mere months after it was a golden child of the hype train. As someone said to me, “I can see The Judge being played on mid-day TV in a few years’ time” which is a verdict that perfectly sums up the crimes of a film that could have been so much more had it mastered anyone of its countless ambitions. Harsh judgements these maybe, but when you’ve got something that looks good on paper, the expectations come with it.
3 hosing offs out of 5