Director: David Dobkin
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga
Release Date: October 10, 2014
pairs two acting heavyweights together on the big screen for the first time. Robert Downey Jr. is a two-time Oscar nominee for his works in Chaplin
and Tropic Thunder
and a five-time Golden Globe nominee, taking home three of them for his work in Sherlock Holmes, Ally McBeal,
and Short Cuts
. Let's not forget that he is also an Avenger. Playing opposite to Robert Downey Jr. is Robert Duvall, a six-time Oscar nominee, winning only once for Best Actor in a Leading Role
for Tender Mercies
and has four Golden Globes in his trophy case as well. Put these two in a courtroom drama, a critic's favorite, and you're walking into award season feeling confident that The Judge
will dominate the nominations. However, director David Dobkin's inexperience in this genre ends up being a major downfall for the film.
In The Judge, Robert Downey Jr. stars as big city lawyer Hank Palmer, who returns to his childhood home where his estranged father, the town's judge (Robert Duvall), is suspected of murder. He sets out to discover the truth and along the way reconnects with the family he walked away from years before.
The first thing one needs to realize is that The Judge
is NOT a courtroom drama but instead a flat out drama. Yes, we have a hearing and we very much care about the outcome but the film never focuses on Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton
) vs Hank Palmer. Instead, this film is purely about Hank Palmer vs Joseph Palmer. No matter what differences the father-son combination have, Hank is willing to put it towards the side to make sure his father does not end up behind bars. The Judge on the other hand, never lets go of his stubbornness throughout the trial, giving his son more problems than any attorney has ever done in his whole career, even Dickham. Due to this, throughout the film you want to learn more about the family dynamics and what caused the drift between Hank and his father instead of learning how Hank will win the case for his father.
Downey Jr. has been cruising on blockbuster stardom ever since he took the role of Tony Stark. So when Downey Jr. decided to take on The Judge as his next featured film, it was clear that he was chasing an Oscar. Unfortunately, he will have to wait at least another year to take home that award. RDJ brings the same Tony Stark mannerism to Hank Palmer, a mannerism that RDJ has perfected and shines throughout the film with. Match that with the amazing chemistry he has with Duvall and you'll think RDJ will be landing a nomination. Wrong.
But the problem with the film does not rely on RDJ or any other actor as they all deliver with the little wiggle room they are given. It's as if Dobkin has very little faith in his stellar cast to flourish and does not allow them to show off their acting chops. Instead, we have a film that changes tones quite unnaturally from comedic to dramatic. It could also be that throughout the huge trial that everybody is awaiting a verdict on, there is a love-story thrown in that never really goes anywhere between Hank and high school sweetheart Samantha (Vera Farmiga
). Perhaps the biggest reason for the failure behind The Judge
is all the cliches that the film contains. Any father-son cliche you can think of, is present within the film and none of them are presented in an intelligent or clever way. It is clear that Dobkins is out of his element and if it wasn't for the stellar cast, this film would not be looked at twice. After all, good acting can only take you so far.
Labels: 2014, David Dobkin, Movie Review, On Demand, Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, the judge, Vera Farmiga