by Kieran Daly
Okay, so this movie should be an easy sell. Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man…like you didn’t know that already) plays a cocky, arrogant and sarcastic defense lawyer with daddy issues, how can you not want to see that?
The Judge, directed by David Dobkin (The Change Up, Wedding Crashers and Shanghai Knights), follows big city lawyer Hank Palmer (Downey) as he returns to his small town childhood home where his father (Robert Duvall, The Godfather), the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and tries to prove his father as innocent, but the real story the film is about an estranged father and son who slowly start to realize the importance of family. I know that sounds soppy, but be warned, this film is a bit of a tearjerker.
The cast that Dobkin has built up for this film shines the whole way through it. Downey is perfect in the lead role and his interactions with Duvall and his two brothers (played by Jeremy Strong and Vincent D’Onofrio) are extremely entertaining to watch, to say the script has been well written would be an understatement. Every sad moment in the film is proceeded by a little laugh and that is then followed by another emotional moment, this film really is an emotional roller coaster. The scenes in the film where Duvall and Downey butt-heads have to be some of the most entertaining scenes in the film, I would actually be surprised to not see either of them get an Oscar nod for this film.
Not only are the stars of the film brilliant, but also so are the supporting cast that consists of D’Onofrio, Strong, Dax Shepard (Hit and Run), Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) and Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo). D’Onofrio and Strong are brilliant as Hank Palmer’s distant but loving siblings, the only shame is that they didn’t get more screen time, I would really have liked to have seen more scenes featuring D’Onofrio and Downey together. Shepard portrays a young lawyer that gets brought on to the case to help Duvall, it needs to be noted that Shepard was cast mainly for comedic appeal, and succeeds at attaining it. Farmiga plays one of Hank’s old flames before he left his hometown and never came back, but in all honesty her character becomes slightly forgettable as she only appears in the story every now and then, which is a shame. Thornton shines as the prosecutor that is attempting to put Duvall away for murder, again, I only wish he had been in the film more, his scenes are brilliant and it’s so entertaining watching him and Downey bounce off of each other both in and outside the courtroom scenes.
Another highly positive thing that I loved about this film has to be the music that is played throughout. The soundtrack does a really great job at setting the tone to certain scenes. My overall favourite use of this would have to be the multiple uses of “Holocene” by Bon Iver, each time the song is played I started to get a little teary-eyed.
All in all, I would highly recommend viewing this film. It is such a touching and emotional story with so many strong performances that will have you laughing and crying throughout most of the film. The overall message about that the bond between a father and his sons comes across really hard in this film, and that is honestly why it does so well, because almost anyone can watch the film and find some way to relate to it. I honestly hope to see this film get some love at the next Oscars.
See this film and others like it at the macrobert