The Judge is strong and long
Bobby Townsend checks out the buttock-numbingly long, family/courtroom drama, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall:
The story is thus: Big city lawyer Hank Palmer (RDJ) returns to his childhood home for his mother’s funeral. His relationship with his father (Duvall), the town’s judge, is not a healthy one. But when the latter is suspected of murder, Hank finds himself embroiled in a trial which will force him to reconnect with his estranged family.
At 141 minutes, it’s obviously way too long. I mean, Boyhood is only 20 minutes longer than The Judge and that covers about 13 years more ground. But, aside from the fact that it feels like it could have done with a little more discipline in the editing room, this is a strong, engaging story. The most surprising thing about The Judge is just how funny it is. It’s not a comedy, remember, it’s a slow-burning family/courtroom drama, but there are more laugh-out-loud moments here than in some comedies you’ll see this year (hello Sex Tape). The laughs come from well-placed, sharply-written and deliciously delivered pieces of dialogue, a personal favourite being when Hank refers to someone as “Red Bull Semen Breath.” SNAP!
Billy Bob Thornton pops up halfway through as the prosecution and is unsurprisingly brilliant, as is Duvall as the ill, belligerent old man determined to let justice run its course even though it could see him end up in prison. RDJ meanwhile, is always good to watch and, even within the thoughtful tone of the piece, has that familiar and appealing sass.
There are a few too many saccharine moments as The Judge strolls towards its conclusion, but these are forgivable as they are in keeping with the idea of a hotshot returning to his humble hometown and reminiscing and reevaluating.
Ultimately, The Judge is a reasonably entertaining watch due to the excellent performances and occasional moments of levity; it’s just a shame that it felt the need to be as lengthy as it did. But then that’s a common problem with films these days.
Review by Bobby Townsend.