THE JUDGE – Rated R

The Judge

Director David Dobkin – who has brought us such comedic classics as WEDDING CRASHERS, THE CHANGE-UP and SHANGHI KNIGHTS, takes his turn with a dramatic film this time around bringing us his latest film – THE JUDGE.

Defense Attorney Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is living large with his big city life, crushing anyone who tries to get in his way.  When his mother Mary (Catherine Cummings)passes away suddenly, Hank has no choice but to return to his estranged family, consisting of his brothers Glenn (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Dale (Jeremy Strong), and lest we forget the reason why he is estranged from all of them, his father Judge Joseph Palmer (played by the legendary Robert Duvall).

As the boys try to come to terms with their mother’s death – and the fact that Hank is never usually around for more than 5 minutes at a time – they find that the Judge’s Classic 1974 Cadillac has been wrecked.  When they confront the old geezer about what happened, he can’t remember a thing.  And to complicate his personal life even further too, Hank runs into his old sweetheart from High School Sam Powell (Vera Farminga), who apparently isn’t attached – but Hank is – even though it seems his marriage isn’t longed for this world either….

Hank’s feelings towards his father are just getting worse, so he decides to head back to the life he loves and leave Indiana, before he gets sucked by all the craziness there yet again.  When the police begin investigating the death of a local convict who has just been released – all trails lead back to THE JUDGE….can this really be happening?

Glenn and Dale plead with Hank to stay and help their father stay out of jail, as they can’t lose him too….

Will Hank decide to stay and help his old man, even though they can’t seem to get past their hatred for one another?  Will THE JUDGE decide that he wants local lawyer C.P. Kennedy (Dax Shephard) to take on his case – NOT HANK? Well, that is until he finds out that defense lawyer Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton) is who he will be up against!  Or will Hank decide that returning home to try to save his marriage and be with his daughter is more to his liking, and let the old man fry!

I give THE JUDGE an A+:  Casting Directors Kerry Barden and Paul Schnee should be commended for their genius in casting “THE ROBERTS” as father and son, as their chemistry on screen was absolute brilliance.  Downey Jr. playing a dramatic role was definitely perfect too, as this role takes him far, far away from his IRON MAN persona – but allows the cocky and ruthless Downey Jr. we love to shine through. Duvall is perfect in his role as the stubborn Judge – but then when isn’t he perfect?  I also thoroughly enjoyed D’Onofrio as the older brother to Downey Jr., just as much as I loved him playing the older brother to Vince Vaughn in THE BREAK UP.  Jeremy Strong’s work as the “not all there” little brother was memorable too, and seeing Leighton Meester play a cameo role as Sam’s grown daughter Carla – and as a possible love interest for Downey Jr. for a short time too – was awesome as well.  I will warn you though that THE JUDGE is a longer one – coming in at 141 minutes – but rest assured the time seems to just fly by, as you are entrenched in these characters and their totally messed-up lives.  Make no mistake, if you can only catch one film this weekend, you want to make it THE JUDGE – you will enjoy each and every minute of this incredible film – you have my word on it!

Kathy Kaiser