A strong cast head up this legal thriller family drama with strong performances by Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr., who plays a swaggering defence attorney returning home to his mother’s funeral.
The judge, as Robert Duvall is called throughout the film, goes out to the shop after his wife’s funeral and hits an ex-con, whose trial he presided over.
The story offers much more than just your average homecoming drama though, benefiting from stunning cinematography and a soundtrack that is combined brilliantly with the picture.
Hank (Robert Downey Jr.), the middle son of three brothers, does not get along with his father and, therefore, his discovery of a crash-damaged car prompts a tormented journey to defending his own father, in the court where his father presided.
This journey allows for the development of a story offering perspectives on morality, ethics, and fatherly responsibility, enabling the film to have much greater depth than most other legal dramas.
However, the multi-faceted story detracts from the performances of these flawed characters leaving viewers confused about their true nature.
The film is definitely targeting success at the Oscars with numerous winners or nominees in the cast and monologues that offer Downey Jr. and Duvall the opportunity to carry the main thrust of the story despite the cheesier aspects, such as Hank getting involved with his childhood sweetheart. It is, however, refreshing to see Robert Downey Jr. in a role that is not a Marvel superhero.
The score composed for the film is one of the more interesting components of the production. The score is composed by, the often Academy Award Nominated, Thomas Newman, who wrote the score for The Shawshank Redemption, and in The Judge it is equally good.
An engaging core to the story, with great shots of the Indiana countryside, mean that this film is worth a watch if you accept that many of the strands to the story would be better off as footnotes.