Tom Basham

The Judge

In This Just OUT on October 12, 2014 at 8:08 pm

The-Judge-PosterGoing to see “The Judge” never sounds like the right thing to do, but now that I have, I am going to give up my right to be silent.

The Judge (Robert Duvall from “Crazy Heart”) has spent 42 years on the bench dispensing justice in his small hometown. When his wife of 50 years dies, his middle son, Hank (Robert Downey, Jr. from “Chef”), finally comes home. The two have not spoken in decades, and the gulf between them is still there. Hank is about to head back to his defense lawyer job in the big city when they find out the Judge may have hit someone with his car. Hank takes on the case since the next best thing in the small town could not get you out of a parking ticket.

The contrived bits bothered me as they piled up. The marriage problems, the old girlfriend back home, and the simple son who does nothing but record 8 mm home movies that come in handy just at the right moment. They are all done well, but they have been done so many times before and this kind of window dressing is unnecessary. All this is on top of the son who becomes a great defense attorney only to defend his father and prove himself by saving the Judge and their relationship. You can almost hear the pitch to the studio and the suit that tossed in the bit about having a tornado so everyone could have a physical metaphor for their relationship.

What saved this movie from the $3 Walmart discount bin were the moments with Downey and Duvall. The way they played out their father-son story touched me, in a good way. All the old man did was judge – from the bench and while looking down his nose at his son. Most people in the town thought his first name was Judge.

There is a great supporting cast here, with some wonderfully nuanced performances that provide some pleasing distractions, as that is all the script seemed to allow. I think the filmmakers were going for “August: Osage County,” but they missed the bus.

This movie tried to be too many things in a tried and trite way. However, I find I must rule based upon the evidence presented, and therefore I sentence this movie to 3 ½ stars out of 5. At least Downey got to wear a suit that wouldn’t rust.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:


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