ByJames Porter, writer at
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James Porter

Movie Review: [The Judge](movie:739892).

Directed By: David Dobkin.

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga and Billy Bob Thornton.

The Judge is a court room drama in which Robert Downey Jr plays cocky lawyer Hank Palmer, who returns to his childhood home after his Mother passes away. Hank Palmer is the son of esteemed Judge Palmer of Carlinville, Indiana. Whilst back home, Hank's father gets in trouble with the police for knocking a man off his bike and killing him, did Judge Palmer mean to kill the man or was it just an accident?

Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall head up this impressive cast as a father and son who aren't on great speaking terms due to an incident that occurred some years ago. The two must put aside their quarrel and work together to make sure Judge Palmer doesn't get convicted of murder.

Director David Dobkin is best known for his comedy work, with films like Wedding Crashers and The Change Up. Dobkin does a great job in the lighter moments but never impresses with the more dramatic scenes, that's left up to the actors. Dobkin almost goes too far with the dramatic scenes, and just piles up the melodrama. Downey Jr and Duvall give great performances and depending on the rest of the year, Duvall could see an Oscar nomination for his work here. David Dobkin does do well with the lighter scenes though and whilst the film never becomes funny, it is an easy watch.

The films antagonist is played by Billy Bob Thornton, he plays the opposing lawyer to Hank but is never quite given enough screen time for us to root against him. He seeks justice for the life that was lost so at times it seems like his character is really the one in the right, but his character isn't portrayed in that way, we're supposed to root against him.

Robert Downey Jr gives a fantastic performance but its nothing we haven't seen from him before, he's intelligent, cocky and a ladies man which is nothing different to what we see from him in the Marvel movies. He is given more room to emote here though, and Hank was a character I shouldn't have liked but Downey Jr is too good of a movie star that its almost impossible not to.

All of the actors here play to type, so the film never gets interesting because its almost predictable to where these characters will end up.

What is disappointing about the film is its actual story, there is nothing incredibly complex or compelling about the court case that we spend so much time seeing. The actual conclusion of the case felt like it was written in way part way through shooting.

The film fluctuates on the border of feel good comedy or dark court room drama and the two tones never fit together so we're constantly thrown between each of the two genres which didn't feel natural.

Some parts of the film were almost laughable at how metaphorical and deep they were trying to be. One scene in the film features one of many arguments between Downey and Duvall and Duvall gets so worked up, he walks out into a tornado so the argument can carry on there. Its a scene which felt completely out of place, just suddenly a tornado hits this town out of nowhere and whilst that does happen in real life, it felt almost ridiculous in the context of the film.

Dobkin throws so much unto the film to try and prove that he can direct a dramatic film but there's so much in there that non of it gets the proper treatment it deserves. There's a death, a murder, a character becomes fatally ill, there's disability in the family, Downey Jr may be the father to a girl that he hooked up with a few nights before and its all just too much, it seemed like the film makers were just throwing ideas into the movie to see if any of them worked on an emotional level.

The movie is 2 hours and 20 minutes long but it never feels that long thankfully, it does plod along at a reasonable pace but there is no way this film should have been that long. Somewhere in The Judge is a very good film, but it becomes buried under so much other crap that we never get to see its full potential. The film gets bogged down with subplots and pointless characters.

The film isn't very good but I did enjoy it to a point and that is because of the cast involved, they do elevate it to a level that it wouldn't be at without them. Vincent D'onofrio never gets anything to do in his role and it seems like a huge waste of talent. There's a character played by Dax Shephard which should have been cut from the film entirely because yet again it just feels like excess content that doesn't add to the film in any way.

The court room drama and the family drama feel like two different films at times and neither are given enough time to be fully fleshed out. I did prefer the family drama, it was more interesting than the murder trial but each story keeps getting in the way of the other.

There are good scenes and great moments in the film but its bogged down by so much pointless material. I don't recommend The Judge but if you do decide to see it, it is enjoyable and its an easy watch but don't expect anything great from it. I give The Judge a 7/10!

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