I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m going to say it anyway. The Judge is Robert Downey Jr.’s best movie to date. I’ve enjoyed his performances in the Sherlock Holmes movies and my husband likes him as the Iron Man, but we both agree that, in The Judge, he is outstanding. Our opinion is contrary to many movie critics. I don’t know why. The two main actors, both Roberts (Robert Duvall and Robert Downey, Jr.) deliver performances that are both way above average.
What the Story is About:
Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a highly successful defense attorney living in Chicago. He returns home to his small hometown in Indiana for his mother’s funeral. Hank hasn’t been home in a long time. He and his father (Robert Duvall) are always at odds with each other. (In my opinion, his father treats him differently, and not in a good way.)
His father has been a judge for decades. Right after the funeral something happens to keep Hank in town. His father is accused of murder and he really needs a good defense attorney. The judge, however, is adamant that he does not want Hank to represent him, but Hank is so persistent and so good at his job that it finally becomes obvious to everyone that Hank has to do it.
Why I Liked the Movie:
The Judge had key elements that I like in a movie: great characters acted beautifully and an interesting story. The story was, in part, a good courtroom drama reminiscent of former movies made from John Grisham novels.
It’s also a very good family drama. The family consists of Hank, his father the judge, his older brother Glenn (Vincent D’Onofrio) and younger brother Dale (Jeremy Strong). Their relationship is complicated. As a teenager, Glenn had a promising baseball career and then it was stopped by a car wreck. Now he runs a local tire store. Dale is retarded, but a sweet guy who takes his old movie camera everywhere he goes. I will not use the overworked term, “dis-functional family” to describe this family. They clash a lot, but there is a great deal of respect and love among them.
The personalities of the characters were well developed and each of the actors did a superb job of showing us that. I was, however, absolutely blown away by Robert Downey Jr. His rapid-fire delivery of his lines and his wide, wide range of emotions were jaw-dropping. As in a great novel, this actor made me believe I was watching a live person. He made me feel as if I was right there in Indiana with him.
When you go to see the movie, look for a few of my favorite scenes. One was in a bar. Hank is with his brothers. A few guys are coming after them, wanting to fight. Hank is so good at reading people that he defeats them all with his words. I also like the scene with Hank and his daughter, such as when he lets her sit on his lap and “drive” the car. He’s so emotionally vulnerable, its beautiful. It’s hard to pick out favorite scenes because there are so many. Just go see The Judge. Uh, bring plenty of tissues.
Warning: I know I said this was partially a family drama, but wait. Before you make plans to take the kids to see this movie, let me tell you this is rated R for strong and crude language as well as drinking and references to drugs and there are sexual references.