Director: David Dobkin
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton
Release Date: Thursday 9th October, Roadshow Films
Directed by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers, The Change-Up, Fred Claus), The Judge follows Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr) as he returns to his hometown for his mothers funeral only to discover that his brutal and cold father, the town judge (Robert Duvall), is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth, representing his father and along the way reconnects with the family he walked away from years before.
As huge fans of Robert Downey Jr, we were so excited for this release. The movie had a few things working in its favour in the lead up to the release – its huge cast and several promising trailers but it is ultimately a huge disappointing first film to come from Team Downey.
Despite its strong main cast of Robert Downey Jr (though the movie feels like a vanity project made just for him) and Robert Duvall, the main problems lie in a weak script , a director working beyond his ability and dreary supporting characters.
The screenplay, by writers Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque, is cheesy and full of sappy moments and lines that are cringe-worthy that it left us almost nauseous.
It tries too hard to be dramatic, too hard to be thoughtful that the balance of the movies A and B plots are always out of alignment. The murder-mystery is constantly overshadowed by an unnecessary regurgitated romance with a high-school sweetheart, of which the two actors have very little on-screen chemistry, or with constant whining about how ‘daddy didn’t love me’.
It’s unnecessarily long at 141 minutes and moves at snails pace; a badly edited movie with dozens of cross fades and loads of bad CGI. The editing is so pieced together that the timing for every possible funny one-liner or joke is off, the emotional beats are too broad and the second half of the film is almost laughable. In what is the first dramatic film for David Dobkin, he certainly doesn’t meet the task at hand.
The film tries so hard to be earnest and dramatic that it ends up feeling cheap. The fact that it seems it was so obviously made just to try and earn an Academy or Globe is the films undoing. It’s so contrived, so pleading that the film virtually becomes a physical representation for its relationship with the audience; the audience becomes the cold, estranged father and the film is begging and pleading for us to love it.
The Judge is the first film to emerge from Robert Downey Jr’s, and his wife Susan Downey, production company Team Downey. If this is the tone they’re setting for their future films, the company may not be making movies for long.
Stick to franchises RDJ, where your ego works in your favour.