Friday, October 10, 2014

A Reel Review: THE JUDGE

The responsibilities of a filmmaker is comparable to those of a good chef; having the best of all ingredients on the counter is not enough…you have to know what to do with them in order to make the total meal worthwhile and memorable. Such is the case of David Dobkin’s THE JUDGE.
Hank (Robert Downey Jr.) is a successful Chicago defense attorney who comes home for his mother’s funeral, only to discover that his estranged father (Robert Duvall), a successful long-time Judge, is suspected of murder.

THE JUDGE is made up of some very familiar elements, or ingredients, that we’ve all tasted before. Estranged father and son, check. Family drama, check. Ex-girlfriend, check. Film projector which plays old family movies backed by piano music, check. Annoying ten-year old kid, check. They are the familiar parts in which director David Dobkin must add flavor to…flavor which he leaves on the shelf. THE JUDGE, despite its intricate courtroom proceedings, never moves past any of the old clich├ęs, and in fact embraces them so tightly the film feels like a parody or late-night TV skit. With the territory and characters so familiar and one-note, THE JUDGE becomes insanely predictable and very bland to taste.
David Dobkin is clearly working from a terrible script; the first 25 seconds of every scene basically telegraphs what’s going to happen in the coming minutes…and the family drama is composed of everyone yelling at each other followed by nice music and hugs. A few sub-plots are thrown in which lead nowhere; some drama with Hank’s older brother, a possible daughter he never knew he had, and a pointless sequence with tornado (groan). All this is added to seemingly beef up the drama, but it winds up just being fat and makes a long movie seem longer.

Robert Downey Jr. occasionally gets to flex his acting muscle with some serious outbursts of emotion ranging from rage to heartbreak, but for the most part he just sits in his comfort zone of the cocky guy who always has a wisecrack to make. He’s at his best when going up against Robert Duvall. As the father who knows how to push a person’s buttons, Duvall and Downey generate some serious fireworks on-screen, and it’s a travesty that THE JUDGE doesn’t spend more time with them. The supporting cast is excellent. Vincent D’Onofrio, as Hank’s older brother, is perfectly cast and matches Downey in stride. Vera Farmiga, as Hank’s ex-girlfriend is stunningly good despite her character not adding much to the overall story. Billy Bob Thornton as the prosecuting attorney just seems to be going through the motions.
Although THE JUDGE does have a few laugh-out-loud moments and few touching quiet ones, by movie’s end it doesn’t feel like any sort of a memorable experience. It is made up of the best of ingredients but it comes out of the pot overcooked and tasting like ass. Despite what it’s made up of, THE JUDGE is only good enough for a stomach ache.


1 comment:

  1. Dam this just sucks reading this review. This was a movie that looked good and I was looking forward to seeing. But I guess the hell with that. Thanks for the heads up.


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