From the A-list, top-line billing of Robert Duvall, Robert Downey Jr and Billy Bob Thornton, The Judge, directed by David Dobkins, held some promise. I say some promise with reference to the stellar cast, as the old humdrum tale of the estranged father/son coming together against the odds feels a little, well, boring. An old fashioned life lesson with an equally old fashioned sounding title and promo pic. The Judge looks like its straight out of a 90s VHS box set.

Hotshot Chicago attorney Hank Palmer (Downey Jr.) is summoned to his small-town home for his mother’s funeral. As Hank is leaving the Midwest, jetsetting back to his Ferrari and tenuous marriage to his twenty-something wife, his father (Duvall), a local judge, is arrested for the hit-and-run of a murderer he sent to jail, so Hank steps in to represent him.

See, even the word ‘hotshot’ reminds you of the 90s right?

The courtroom drama – which has the potential to be tense and dramatic – is a sideshow to the clichéd portrayal of small-town American life for a city attorney returning to his roots. So clichéd and wholesome in fact, it becomes a complete parody. Hank encounters old flames, old foes and grapples with a number of proverbial skeletons in his family’s closet.

Lacking in dialogue, yet dead set on focusing in on the estranged and strained relationship of our two leading gentlemen, this film fails to hit the mark. The Judge seems stuck between asserting itself as a heart-wrenching family tale, a journey of self-discovery and courtroom drama – sure it could be a mix of each of these, but here it just doesn’t all quite knit together.

The story is full of familiar plot beats, which navigate the way to a predictable but not unsatisfying endpoint. Unfortunately, the mysteries at the centre of the film, along with the subsequent court scenes, are far less interesting than the primary story of an alienated father and son attempting to repair their relationship.

In short, Dobkin has simply tried to pack way too much into the plot. Even with a run time of 140 minutes, several of the plot arcs are rushed serving no more purpose than to be a familiar drama-trope.

The Judge is competent and watchable but definitely falls short of being memorable when we feel we’ve seen a man finding humility in his hometown a million times over.

Movie Review: The Judge
A film that feels far too familiar
2.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

About The Author

Emily Stockham

Emily is from South London and has a degree in English Literature. Emily is a marketing assistant who writes about films and music in her spare time. Horror and grindhouse are her thing - although she will happily watch anything if it means a trip to the cinema.