Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vincent D’Onofrio
“In each family a story is playing itself out, and each family’s story embodies its hope and despair.”
I’m glad that I’m not some famous critic judging movies for a living in the newspaper or any other media source. If I listened to every critic and tomato meter out there taking them seriously, I would miss movies that are personally for me some of my favorites.
Movies come in all genres – comedy, action, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, and romance. Every once in a while a movie comes along that is a powerful drama. Like the quote above, in each family there is a story playing itself out. Those stories can contain hope and despair, and The Judge is one of those gems filled with powerful performances that are creating Oscar buzz. I can see why.
Robert Downey, Jr. is so talented beyond his roles as Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes, and other movies of fluff he has done in the past. The Judge is a challenging role but well-played for an actor I never considered a contender for awards–not until now. Like the character Hank Palmer, who his father hoped would straighten out and make something of himself, Downey has proven to the audience that one can overcome his past and be a contender among the best. Perhaps that is why he is so passionate in this movie, since his past is riddled with substance abuse and time in prison.
The story itself revolves around a dysfunctional family, which most of humanity can relate to in one way or the other. Hank Palmer is the best of the best defense attorney in the big city, compared to his father who is the best of judges in a small town in Indiana. When his mother passes away, and he returns for the funeral, old wounds between father and son reopen. Not only is his relationship estranged with his father, but his elder brother is not a big fan of him either.
His father on the eve of burying his wife decides to take his classic Cadillac and run out for a dozen of eggs. A few days later, the sheriff is at the door and proof mounts that Judge Palmer killed another man in a hit-and-run accident. As the incident unfolds, his refuses to have Hank defend him but hires an inexperienced attorney who can’t seem to stop throwing up on the courthouse lawn before going into the courtroom. Eventually, as things look dimmer for the judge’s future, he relents and allows Hank to defend him when his case goes to trial.
Robert Duval, as the judge, is looking pretty old these days (after all he’s 83 playing a 72 year-old-man). However, he’s a legend in his right, and his performance is wonderful. Also in the movie is Vincent D’Onofrio, who you may know from Law & Order: Criminal Intent. He plays Glen Palmer the elder brother, while the younger brother, who is somewhat mentally challenged, is played by Jeremy Strong.
The movie is intense, but not without a few humorous reliefs sprinkled here and there to lighten things up. I highly recommend it if you’re a lover of drama. Forget the 47% tomatoes splattered by the critics, when 82% of the audience tells it like it is. It’s a five kernel movie, heavily buttered, with a coke on the side. However, the ending may tug at you if you’re tenderhearted and prone to tears. I know that I had to wipe a few, inhale a deep breath, and find an ounce of composure as the credits rolled at the end.