The Judge

by | Oct 12, 2014 | 0 comments

A Story Ruined By the Weak Ending is Partially Saved by the Cast

I have to say, I was a little disappointed when the credits rolled for The Judge. Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall’s latest film don’t make us doubt their acting capabilities, but the handling of the film was the true failure, with such a great cast and an intriguing plot, I was expecting a little more.

The Judge tells the story of a successful Chicago lawyer, Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.), who is forced to go back to his hometown in Indiana after his mother passes away. However, Hank is forced to reunite with his father, Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), the town judge with whom he had a falling out when he was younger. The funeral ensues and Hank gets ready to go back to Chicago, however, Joseph’s car is found with traces of blood. Soon Joseph finds himself as the prime suspect of a murder, and as accusations elevate Hank is forced to defend his own father in court.

The story sounds great and original, and frankly the script is handled very well until ¾ of the way through, that’s when it starts getting overdramatic. And towards the end there are too many tawdry and predictable scenes, which leaves the audience shaking their heads in disappointment.

Certainly Downey Jr. and Duvall manage to blind us from the ill handling of the story with some celestial acting. One really sees the privilege of being able to seeing both actors performing; I was specifically touched in an incredibly tough scene where Hank carries his father to the shower and hoses him off after Joseph’s bowels failed him. Their acting is amazing to the point that it gave me goose bumps. And there were also some notable portrayals coming from the likes of Vera Farmiga who plays Downey’s childhood love, and of Vincent D’Onofrio who plays his brother. Such acting was not enough, however, to save the film’s tacky ending.

The ending itself wasn’t what disappointed me; it was the resolution of the trial. The entire film had been building up to the closing speech in court, and one was expecting to be surprised and touched by the speech, but it ended up being a redundant and cheesy rant that felt like something a Barbie movie would have written. That was the rotten apple that ruined the whole film for me.

Trial and law films are very hard to carry out; there is no denying that. Everything in these films is building up to that final speech that causes the audience and jury shed a tear; speeches as classic as Atticus’ (Gregory Peck) in To Kill a Mockingbird or Jake Tyler Brigance’s (Matthew McConaughey) in A Time to Kill, and maybe one of the best speeches was given by Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) in The Verdict. I feel that The Judge had a great idea for a story, but never thought through the final speech, and in ignoring this revision, it failed to meet the essential requirement of a law film.

So the essential question here is: is the film worth seeing? I certainly wouldn’t put it on the top of your list this year, but one simply can’t ignore Downey Jr. and Duvall’s powerful acting, they are enough of a reason to submit to this incredible disappointment. 

  • OVERALL MOVIE RATING 67% 67%

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What is your favorite Robert Downey Jr. movie? Let me know in the comments section.

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