The Judge (Film Review)

By Ryan Milowicki

Two of the most over-used genres in film are the courtroom drama and the family genre. It certainly seems that there are an infinite number of ways to tell the same kinds of stories, which would certainly account for the veritable surplus. The Judge borrows equally from both of these genres to create an entirely formulaic, over-long amalgam which has its flashes of brilliance but ultimately proves too predictable to reach true depth.

For director David Dobkin, it represents his first foray into straight drama, as he is better known for helming comedies like Wedding Crashers and Shanghai Knights. The inexperience certainly shows here, as The Judge certainly has its witty moments, but many of them are tonally jarring when set against the backdrop of very serious circumstances.

Set in rural Indiana, Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall) has been on the bench for 40+ years. His son Hank (Robert Downey Jr.) is a high-profile defense attorney who has become the black sheep of the family. His mother’s death brings the family together once again for the funeral. Shortly after, however, Judge Palmer is accused of murdering a former defendant in a late-night car crash. Despite wanting to leave the past behind and make his way back to Chicago, a sense of familial duty and legal expertise lead Hank to stick around as his father’s counsel and try to patch up his fractured relationship with his family.

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