The Judge

Posted on October 11, 2014


The Judge – At the beginning of an important trial, Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.) gets a call that his mother has just died. He hurries back to his small hometown of Carlinville, Indiana, where, according to Hank, no one really wants to go. Estranged for the past 20 years from his family, chiefly his dad, Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), Hank allows old resentments and misunderstandings to bring him to the boiling point. The judge is a tough but fair judge. He was a whole lot stricter with his three sons than his defendants, especially Hank, whom he blamed for the accident that destroyed older brother (Vincent D’Onofrio) Glen’s chances of a promising baseball career. Just as he’s ready to head back home, Glen calls to say their dad is about to be charged with murder. Now it’s up to Hank to keep the judge from a prison sentence. Father and son eventually come back to a place of mutual respect and the love that was there all along.

In addition to Downey’s quick-thinking, fast-talking, smart-alecky persona and Duvall’s crusty old man, there’s a whole ensemble of other well-acted characters. Vera Farmiga is high school sweetheart Samantha with a daughter (Leighton Meister) who was born nine months after Hank left town. Younger bro Dale, slightly challenged mentally, is played by Jeremy Strong. Dax Shepard is C.P. Kennedy, part-time lawyer, part-time antique dealer. Ken Howard “The White Shadow” is Judge Warren. Billy Bob Thorton is prosecuting attorney Dwight Dickham, who has his own axe to grind, so to speak. Grace Zabriski is perfect as the hard mother of the murder victim. And Hank’s little daughter Lauren is played wonderfully well by Emma Tremblay.
It’s a good movie, a touch sentimental, the kind that makes men cry. There are plenty of laughs, too. Downey does need to get a decent hairdresser though.