The Judge [2014]

the-judge-movie-posterDirector David Dobkin shows ambition for days in “The Judge”. That the movie is co-written by the gifted Nick Schenck (“Gran Torino”) is reason enough to recommend it. That the movie features two of the year’s best performances from Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall raises the bar another notch. So hold on tight. “The Judge” is a completely absorbing courtroom drama that threatens to go off the rails several times, but never does. That’s because we are offered the opportunity to watch wonderful actors at work. Downey Jr. plays a big shot city lawyer who returns to his childhood house when his mother passes away. A few days later his father, the town’s Judge for 42 years (Duvall) gets arrested and charged with a hit-and-run murder, an allegation that becomes even more serious when it turns out the victim is a criminal lowlife whom the judge had particular reason to kill. Watching Robert Duvall is always a joy, I daresay a privilege. He tears into a juicy role as the patriarch of a deeply troubled family. And over the course of the film old wounds are reopened, long-held resentments resurface, and layer by layer, we discover the ugly skeletons in this family’s closet. Director David Dobkin takes a straightforward approach to his material and allows us to be spectators, taking in the dirty laundry one piece at a time. For a film that clocks in at over 2 hours, it flows surprisingly well. And by the end of this funny, touching and acutely observed film, shot by the gifted cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, Dobkin gives us plenty to chew on. And Duvall, without a word wasted, holds you in thrall. “The Judge” sticks with you. It’s a keeper.

Rating: 3/4


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