The Judge – 4 out of 5
Ever since Robert Downey Jr. started to get involved in the social media scene (or when his publicist started to impersonate him on the social media scene, I don’t really know if it is him or not), I’ve been following the guy because I’m a fan. When The Judge was coming to theaters, Downey promoted the hell out of it on Facebook—sharing pictures from the set, sending thinly veiled threats that if I don’t see it I’ll never see my children again, and sharing the trailer. I admit, I was interested but with how expensive it is to see movies in the theaters and with the fact my local theater has gotten wise to the way I sneak into the movies (apparently telling them that I "totes bought a ticket and it is inside the actual theater" no longer fools the ticket-taker), I sometimes have to wait for movies I’m interested in.
|I'm guessing he's looking into a mirror and informing his reflection that he is |
awesome. I know I would if I was RDJ.
Hank Palmer (Downey) is a hotshot and silver-tongued lawyer in the big city. One day, he finds out his mother has died and is now forced to return to his small hometown and face the man he doesn’t speak to anymore; his Judge father Joseph (Robert Duvall). While visiting and catching up with his brothers; Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Dale (Jeremy Strong), his father is charged with vehicular manslaughter of a man his father once sentenced. Reluctantly. because of his animosity he feels towards his dad, Hank decides to defend him in court against a ruthless prosecutor (Billy Bob Thornton).
|He's Sherlock Holmes-ing the court case right now.|
The mainstream critics (read that as the ones who get paid for this and don’t just have a blog where they ramble incoherently about the movie they just watched like anybody really gives a shit) have been mixed on this one. The performances are praised but they said the film is pretty formulaic and cliché. I won’t argue that fact but I sure enjoyed this film.
|I wonder if he still enjoys the smell of napalm in the morning...|
Like the other critics, I agree that this film has some tremendous performances. Everyone in the film is just amazing and the chemistry that all the actors share feels real. Whether it is a scene between Duvall and Downy or a scene that shows all the Palmer brothers or even a scene between Hank and an old flame played by Vera Farmiga, the performances are incredibly strong and make this film entirely about their growth and their ordeal. The actors take characters that, on paper, could be cliché and nothing really new (like the cocky big city lawyer), and they really make them interesting and easy to invest in. The problem becomes, however, the acting is so good that when the story does little with a character, I felt robbed.
|Hey look, Iron Man and the Kingpin are brothers...a bit of a change from the comics.|
|Jeremy Strong's performance was very strong...|
I'm here all week! Be sure to tip your waitress!
In the film, Vincent D’Onofrio and Jeremy Strong play Hank’s brothers and both are giving their all to their role. Hell, D’Onofrio, Strong, and Downey all come off like legit brothers and the chemistry shown and teases of their history makes me want to see more development from them. For example, it is teased that Hank and Glen had a dark event in their past and Dale is mentally challenged. These character points made their bond and brotherhood interesting and I wanted to see more that involved the three and their relationship. Sadly, Dale is played only for his handicap and Glen too often gets pushed into the background—and that was a crime because D’Onofrio is a tremendous actor and he is just on fire in this role.
|And later in the movie we find out that he's an alien bug in a Edgar suit.|
As far as the story being cliché? I wont’ argue that one either. The story throws no surprises at you at all. You pretty much know the path the film will travel but that didn’t limit my enjoyment. What made the formulaic story work and not bore me were the performances and the characters. However, I won’t say that the story didn't have some problems I couldn’t overlook.
|I was going to put a "I'm King of the World" caption here but, instead, I'll just|
write the word "poop."
I get that Hollywood always wants to insert a love story into all movies and I have no problem with that. The back and forth between Farmiga and Downey is charming and adorable. The problem that occurred with their relationship comes in the form of the (no shocker here) that Hank might be the daddy of Farmiga’s character’s baby. This, too, is a tad cliché and not an overtly bad problem but this film adds another element in the fact that Hank kinda/sorta made out with this potential daughter (in his defense, he had no idea it might have been his offspring and said offspring was played by Leighton Meester). This dynamic alone could have been a movie about a big city lawyer returning home and finding his old flame but it feels shoe-horned into the trial/family-heavy story and, when it is resolved (and sorta weakly), it comes with no real fanfare and is just sort of spat out and forgotten about.
|I'm pretty sure if the talented and beautiful Robert Downey Jr. and the|
talented and beautiful Vera Farmiga actually had a baby,
it would probably become a god.
Finally, in any court-settings in a film, you need a strong persecutor to go up against the defense. It seems that this film was going to have it with Billy Bob Thornton. He’s filmed as menacing and tough-as-nails and built up to be a true obstacle in Hank’s case for his father but, like the result of the film’s paternity test, nothing really comes of it. While Thornton’s performance is good, he’s just not given enough screen time or enough depth to really be something that stands in the way. It just goes to make the trial that you already have a firm grasp of knowing where it is going be all that more predictable.
|The only man named Billy Bob that I wouldn't fear was going to rape me in the |
Even with its problems, I really enjoyed The Judge. The story may be ridiculously predictable and the film doesn’t develop the supporting characters enough but the performances are never terrible. Hell, the film even has some very decent comic relief from Dax Shepard as Joseph’s first choice of defense. Even with its issues, I still found The Judge to be a charming and fun film that may not be breaking ground on any new sort of drama (a father and son reconciling their differences over the course of adversity, nothing new there) but it never gets boring or pretentious.
|I say this a lot but Dax Shepard needs to be in more films.|