Title: The Judge
Running time: 141 minutes
Director: David Dobkin
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, Billy Bob Thomton
Summary: Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.
The Judge is the first film produced by Team Downey, the production company Robert Downey Jr. has founded with his wife, Susan Downey. The premise actually resembles a lot the one in This Is Where I Leave You, which I reviewed earlier this week. A guy, whose wife has cheated on him, has to go back to the small town he grew up in because one of his parents just died. There he has to deal with the family he isn’t much close to and reunite with his high school flame, who never intended to leave town.
I’m glad to see Robert Downey Jr. playing something different from Tony Stark, but he’s still playing the same kind of character, witty, quick with words, proud… The character of Hank Palmer is a role very well-tailored to him that allows him to show off as much as he can. I enjoyed the father-son relation and Robert Duvall was excellent but he is there because Downey needed to act apposite someone. Watching this movie it seems Downey wants to keep the spotlight on himself and that’s maybe why his two brothers never get a chance to develop or do anything major besides being there and add some drama that will affect, of course Hank.
I had a problem with the strong lack of female characters and at the same time I’m conflicted about it because of the fact that the only woman, who is played by Vera Farmiga, is the character I could have actually done without. There are just too many dramatic plots to create a high level of tension and sometimes they don’t blend together.
The court scenes were the best part and I wish they had focused more on those, but they didn’t turn out to be as relevant as I thought they would be. Also, it got really distracting at points because every time they were in cars, the shots looked fake, as if it had been shot against green screen. I don’t know if that was the case but there’s especially a wide shot when Downey’s character first arrives to Indiana and the landscape is so bright and unreal it actually pulled me out of the movie for a bit.
The movie is too long and could have easily been half an hour shorter. It’s quite obvious that The Judge intended to be a strong Oscar contestant this year and, though is a good and beautifully shot film, I don’t think it reached that level, especially with so many great movies coming out this fall.