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The Judge - Film Review

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Published October 8th 2014
Defend your honour
the judge, movie, film, movie review, film review, robert downey jnr, robert duvall, vincent d'onofrio, bill bob thornton, vera farmiga, leighton meester
All images Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures

I managed to watch 'The Judge' two days before its release as Village Cinema's was screening it in advance as a fundraiser for the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and all tickets were selling for $20. I thought it was a worthwhile cause and was happy to be there. Truth be known, I'd rush to go and see the charismatic Robert Downey Jr in any movie.

the judge, movie, film, movie review, film review, robert downey jnr, robert duvall, vincent d'onofrio, bill bob thornton, vera farmiga, leighton meester

"The infamous Hank Palmer, the jaded lawyer with no respect for the law". The minute those words come out of the mouth of the accuser, you know you're in for some verbal banter especially when the film entails a courtroom and a dysfunctional family for good measure. Hank Palmer's (Robert Downey Jr) life is not going at all well. There's trouble afoot on home soil and his life is interrupted by the death of his mother. He must now return to his childhood hometown of Carlinville for the funeral and he's not looking forward to seeing his father from whom he's been estranged. Driving through the town he is not surprised that everything is still the same in this small town of Indiana.

He manages to get through the funeral slightly scathed by a couple of run-ins with his father Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall) who has been the town's judge for 42 years. His brothers Glen (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Dale (Jeremy Strong) provide a bit of relief and distraction from being in an otherwise aggressive environment. Glen is a family man whose sporting aspirations were cut short in an accident and Dale though mentally challenged loves nothing more than filming all that is around him. A run-in with an old girlfriend from school (Vera Farmiga as Samantha Powell) puts Hank in a slightly uncomfortable situation and has him looking in a yearbook doing mathematical calculations.

Funeral over, Hank can't get out of there fast enough. However a phone call before he takes off has him heading back to Carlinville. Judge Palmer his father has been accused of a murder. It seems he has killed Mark Blackwell (Mark Kiely) a lowlife criminal who has some beef with the judge. Judge (as his son's address him) has no memory of the night and though he needs the best defence possible he refuses Hank's help and instead retains the services of a bumbling lawyer C.P. Kennedy (Dax Shepard) who is rather wet behind the ears. Judge believes the truth will prevail but soon discovers his lawyer is no match for the prosecutor Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton). He eventually comes around and accepts Hank's help.

This film is not so much about a courtroom drama as it is about relationships between father and sons. It's about coming to terms with a few home truths and dealing with past issues to free yourself from the shackles for a more comfortable existence in ones skin in the future. Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall are powerhouse actors that really hold the movie together. Masters of their craft they keep you engaged and keep the story humming along. They are the strongest characters of the film, with the women playing very small roles. However, there is a gem of a performance from old time actor Grace Zabriskie who plays the victim's mother Mrs. Blackwell. Small though the part may have been, she shone like a diamond and as far as I can recollect she has always played unorthodox but interesting characters in her career.

If you're expecting an action packed film (I was kinda half expecting Iron Man to come bursting out myself as RDJ's mere presence evokes that thought) this is not it. This film is more of a close examination of relationships and character studies and the lead actors will keep you engaged. I give this a 7 out of 10.

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Why? A drama about a big city lawyer coming home to defend his father the judge.
When: Out Now
Where: In Cinemas
Cost: Costs Vary
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