Prepare to be bombarded with tear-jerking, dramatic, family centric story lines: from estranged father and son relationship, parental death, mentally challenged sibling, courtroom campaign for justice, to a possible dash of incest, The Judge is a sentimental piece that may or may not tug at your heartstrings.
Directed by David Dobkin (Shanghai Knights, Wedding Crashers), The Judge revolves around egotistical, high-profile lawyer Henry “Hank” Palmer’s (Robert Downey Jr) return to his childhood home for his mother’s funeral and his eventual confrontation with estranged father Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall). After clashing with each other and the town, Hank deals with his neglected relationship with brothers Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Dale (Jeremy Strong) and is poised to defend his father from criminal allegations that threaten to send him to prison.
What is surely undeniable is Downey and Duvall’s captivating chemistry as father and son. The film highlights the exceptional natural rapport between Downey and Duvall; Dobkin, usually known for directing buddy comedy films, constructs a melodramatic film filled with strong performances from lead actors Downey and Duvall. Not to be set aside, Vera Fermiga shines as Samantha, Hank’s high school sweetheart, as well as Jeremy Strong’s profound performance as the mentally challenged youngest brother Dale.
Downey puts up his most dramatic performance to date, undoubtedly known for his highly successful role as Tony Stark in Iron Man. Of course, Downey Jr is his usual sharp tongued, quick witted, sardonic self; a well-known trait that makes him undeniably endearing. But what may shock viewers – or not, for those who have seen Chaplin – Downey Jr displays a significant time and effort on his characters, brilliantly showing his versatility and his confidence to take on dramatic roles. As usual, Duvall is remarkable as the grumpy, short-tempered father, showing to audiences that being 83 years old does not deter him from presenting a powerful performance.
Regardless of compelling performances from its established actors, Dobkin fails to completely deliver an infallible film as a result of tired, exaggerated script. Some may find the film too sentimental with overly used plot lines, but The Judge surely reveals how familial relationships can affect person’s emotional condition.
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