The Judge (142 minutes) is a spellbinding tale of extreme family dysfunction (and redemption) all rolled into a tightly woven package, laced with humour, anger, pain and resentment, the characters bounce off one another with ease. It’s what ensemble casts are supposed to do, and be, but the “lightning in a bottle” moments of a quality A-list cast all coming together and “wowing” and audience is rare. As audience members, our window in to “The Judge” is an opportunity to watch acting at its finest. Real, raw, GREAT, uninhibited acting. No special effects. No distractions. Just – ACTING! How refreshing!
The two RD’s, Robert Duvall (Jack Nicholson turned down the role. Duvall was second choice) and Robert Downey Jr. are sheer perfection, and pairing both in the Best Actor category at next year’s Oscars will only mean that one of them doesn’t go home with the coveted gold statue he deserves. Whomever announces the award had better read quickly, as “Robert” will inevitably be the first name off the tongue and being that both surnames start with “D” it’ll be a tense moment for both of them following “and the winner is…”
That said, Duvall is rumoured to be touted for the Best Supporting Actor category, and if so, it’s a smart move. The 83 year old deserves any award that can be bestowed on him for his role as “Judge Palmer,” and not an award because of his advanced age. Not a “politically correct” lifetime achievement honour because of his multitude of roles over decades of dedication to his craft. No, it’s solely because of his performance in THIS film, in THIS role. That’s why he’s deserving of such an accomplishment. Robert Downey Jr. is equally deserving. Personally, I wouldn’t be able to split them if they were in the same Oscar category, so let’s hope the rumours are true and they’re separated into Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories. At least that way, they’re both given a fair chance of winning.
Downey Jr. plays the sharp-tongued, quick-witted lawyer character in a Tony Stark-esque way, but his role of “Hank Palmer,” the one-time hoodlum from small town Indiana who made it to the top as a hot shot, big city, Chicago lawyer (to the detriment of his marriage) is nothing but the character he’s supposed to be. He’s not typecast in his “Ironman” role. Not by a long shot. “Hank Palmer” isn’t a “Tony Stark” impersonation, but many reviewers are quick to point this out as fact. Both characters are purely Robert Downey Jr. His own, real-life personality is fully invested in both of those roles. His portrayals are 100 per cent him, and he’s damn good at it!
When “Hank” returns home for his mother’s funeral, a few obligated days with the family he clearly doesn’t love, (let alone like), and rarely sees, is unexpectedly extended (indefinitely) when his father, the honourable “Judge Palmer” is arrested for the hit and run death of “Mark Blackwell,” a redneck that he sent to prison twenty years before. “Judge Palmer” considers Blackwell his biggest career failure. After going easy on him for a drunken rage, whereby a thirty-day sentence is given, upon his release from jail he kills his ex-girlfriend and “Judge Palmer” sentences him to the maximum jail time possible – twenty years!
“Judge Palmer” gave “Blackwell” a chance to turn his life around and that shot of freedom got a woman killed. Decades on, now that “Blackwell’s” dead, and a security tape puts “Judge Palmer” and “Blackwell” in the same place at the same time, with “Blackwell’s” blood in the grill of “Judge Palmer’s” banged up car, the evidence is stacked up and it’s up to “Hank” to represent his father in the case of his life. By going back to where it all began, the one place he doesn’t want to be – home – “Hank” must use his professional prowess to fight for a father who does nothing but fight with him and learn to understand and rebuild relationships that were broken and buried years before. Everyone is broken, not just “Hank,” but it’s obvious that “Hank” is the missing piece of the complex family puzzle, and he may well be the unlikely glue to mend the cracks once and for all…
With a supporting cast of Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Dax Shepard, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Lancaster and Billy Bob Thornton, this David Dobkin-directed drama is riveting entertainment.
Don’t miss “The Judge” – Out Now! (Oct. 2014)