Friday, October 10

REVIEW: The Judge

Directed by David Dobkin
2014 Drama
2 hours 21 minutes
From Warner Bros. and
Village Roadshow

Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Duvall
Vera Farmiga
Billy Bob Thornton
Vincent D'Onofrio
Jeremy Strong
Dax Shepard
Leighton Meester
Ken Howard

It could have been better.  It certainly could have been shorter.  It took me until the beginning of the third act before I could actually say I liked it all that much.

It concerns a big-city lawyer, about to be divorced and with one young daughter he quite loves, who returns to his Indiana home town to attend his mother's funeral and ultimately ends up defending his father, the town's longtime crusty judge, against murder charges.  When the film stuck with that storyline, I rather enjoyed it. 

Much of the subplot is, of course, about the son's personal life.  He runs into an ex when he returns home and their story is rather lacking as did a shorter, earlier part about him and his wife.  Neither compelled me, they took up too much time, it felt like filler and it watered down the main story which was quite decent.  And on that filler stuff, there was a lot of it... pointless scenes, silly plot contrivances which I found annoying considering I knew in advance how long this was.

The movie certainly does pick up steam when we start finally get to the trial.  I love trial movies when they're done well and in my humble opinion, they're usually done well.  This trial is done well on all levels.  It actually gets better a bit before the trial as son wants things done his way and father wants it done his way.  It's par for the course, we've learned, as these two have always been at odds.  Each has disappointed the other, both are self-righteous, both are wary and now they have to trust one another.  Why couldn't the whole movie stayed on this course... and cut it down to under two hours?

After comedies like Clay Pigeons, Shanghai Knights, The Wedding Crashers and The Change-Up, director Dobkin is trying his hand at drama and an uneven hand it is.  He also cowrote the piece with apparently several others with largely the same results.  Perhaps comedy is his forte.

I have always liked Robert Downey Jr. although admittedly I have missed quite a number of his films, especially those in the last number of years.  He's a good actor who always  amusingly employs a potpourri of facial maneuvers.  As one of the producers here, he has given obvious approval to the most embarrassing amount of closeups.  Take away those closeups and we shave another 10 minutes.

This is the first film I think I have noticed Robert Duvall aging.  Usually the crustiest of actors, he seems a little off his game here.

I had a good laugh the other day when I heard that Duvall had not recalled working with Downey before despite the fact that they've made two films together... The Gingerbread Man (1998) and Lucky You (2007).

I did like the look of the small Indiana town although it appears Massachusetts stood in for it.

Notable 60s Film

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