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 a fairly by the numbers courtroom drama, elevated by terrific performances and a family dynamic that draws you in successfully. It tells the story of Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.), a high flying lawyer in Chicago, who returns to his hometown in Indiana when his mother dies. Hank has a tempestuous relationship with his father (Robert Duvall, the titular judge of the title), and doesn’t spend much time back home, but this gives him the opportunity to reconnect with his brothers (Vincent D’Onofrio and Jeremy Strong), and an old flame (Vera Farmiga). He plans to return to Chicago when it transpires his father has been accused of a hit and run murder on the night of his mother’s funeral.
The film is a success largely due too the performances from Downey Jr. and Duvall, who are excellent throughout, and generate real chemistry when they’re on screen together. The court case is fairly standard fare, but Duvall and Downey Jr. hold your gaze, and Billy Bob Thornton is great as always as the charismatic prosecutor (albeit he is underdeveloped outwith the courtroom), which combine to make this an enjoyable watch. The family drama is solid, and the scenes between Farmiga and Downey Jr. have a genuine sense of longing between two old lovers reminiscing about the past.
The film could have benefited from some tighter management in the editing suite, with the 142 minute runtime a little bloated for the material, but overall this is an enjoyable drama with some terrific performances, and I really enjoyed it.
Directed By: David Dobkin
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vera Farmiga, Jeremy Strong, Billy Bob Thornton, Dax Shepard, Sarah Lancaster, David Krumholtz, Ken Howard, Leighton Meester and Denis O’Hare