Admittedly, Robert Downey Jr. alone is a more than enough reason for me to watch anything because, well, because it’s him. And then a little bird tell me that Billy Bob Thornton was also present on the movie. So yeah. I went in for eye candies and wound up being heartbroken.
Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is a big city lawyer, specialized in defending the guilty. Upon a phone call about his mother’s death, he need to return home and meet the family he had ignored for so long: Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio), Dale (Jeremy Strong), and his father Judge Palmer (Robert Duvall). Their rocky relationship seemingly doesn’t get any better, Hank is about to leave when he got another important call.
Judge Palmer is accused of murder and Hank sets out to defend his father.
How do I start? From the casts, probably, for they’re the ones that got me hooked on this movie. It was Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall that got me so caught up in their dynamics that I couldn’t even care less about the lack of development for the other characters. It’s the way the story centered on them and got me so focused I was temporarily blinded to the flaws. Admittedly, Billy Bob Thornton was also a helpful distraction and yes I know he’s almost 60 years old but hey even Angelina Jolie married him
Story wise, I do think that The Judge was great. It was a moving family drama and it explored the strained relationship between a strict father and a rebellious son – cliche, I know. But it worked out – with the court as it’s background. Literally. I mean the murder charge was basically a plot device to forced Hank and Judge Palmer to interact so that the story would move forward. But it worked, and I really like how the story unfold as we accompany Hank on his quest to find the truth about what happened between Judge Palmer and Blackwell. With every step that he take, he get one step closer to the answers he wants, both on the accident and on his long time dispute with his father. I was absorbed by the increasingly volatile relationship between Hank and the Judge, with the way they’re so persistent to go against each other. It was such a tease (and yes, cliche) to see things looking up only to go down the hill again. It was such a contrast to see how the Judge stubbornly refuse to work with Hank and decide to go with Kennedy. Both Kennedy and Dwight’s appearance worked as an added pressure for Hank, on whether or not he can prove his worth to his father.
Yet in retrospect, that’s the flaw of The Judge, It was far too focused on Hank and Judge Palmer that it ignores other characters. They were just there to provide a sufficient background about Hank’s relationship with his father, to established Hank’s character, or to provide further problems and pressure on Hank. It was such a shame that we never got to see more of the brotherly relationship between Glen, Hank, and Dale. It was just adequately shows that Hank have a softer side when it comes to his younger brother Dale and that he’s on okay basis with Glen. Samantha and Carla was just additional distraction, only there as the necessary love interest to spice things up. And as the bait for happy ending because we know earlier on that Hank’s marriage is falling apart – speaking of which, what happens to this marriage, again? Anyway. Dwight’s motive was also never explained. Well yeah he did give a monologue about it on one intense exchange with Hank, but that’s that. It would have been better if they could dug deeper into the reason behind this animosity between the two rather than seemingly attributing it to Hank’s natural talent to make people detest him.
But as I mentioned before, the casts save the day. Hank Palmer may be just another archetypal character that RDJ got to play, but at least that enable him to be Hank effortlessly. Hank is self centered, annoying – despicable at times, but he can be humane and at the end of the day, he just want to be recognized by his father. While Robert Duvall’s Judge Palmer was simply a man that you can’t help to sympathize with and yet you still resent him at times. Unlike his son’s reckless charm, Judge Palmer is far more reserved and at times he makes you want to knock some senses into him. Yet at certain times of weakness he looks utterly fragile and you found yourself wanting to give the old man a consoling hug. Billy Bob Thornton was just so antagonistic in his appearance and although his backstory was unclear, it still was nice to see a character that can rival Hank’s overwhelming presence and reduce the others into unimportant specs – they are though, in a way. Still, Jeremy Strong left a lasting impression as Dale while D’Onofrio’s Glen and Vera Farmiga’s Samantha was just something that I wouldn’t have trouble forgetting. Oh, and apparently, Leighton Meester was Carla. No wonder she looks familiar.
So yeah, The Judge was good. It fulfill my standard of a good movie and while the story may be a little cliche and most of the characters are a bit two dimensional, it was skillful enough to distract me from it’s own flaws and got me focusing on it’s strong suit instead. It may not be the best movie out there, but it was still worth watching. You shouldn’t miss out Duvall and RDJ here. Plus, Billy Bob Thornton in a three pieces suit is distracting. Oh, and I really like the “defend your honor” tagline.
Director: David Dobkin. Writers: Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque, David Dobkin. Released on: 16 October 2014 (Singapore). Casts: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton, Jeremy Strong, Vera Farmiga.