David Dobkin's THE JUDGE
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
A hot-shot big city lawyer is interrupted mid-trial by news that his mother is dying. He flies home to a small town in Indiana to find very little is changed including his ironfisted dad who has for 30+ years served as the town’s judge.
Just as we start to learn why the dad and son are estranged, dad is involved in a hit-and-run accident and accused of vehicular homicide. He finds himself being defended by his son against whom he maintains a grudge from years past.
This movie could have gone down many different paths of minimal dramatic impact or schmaltz but the director keeps the focus on the relationship between a son (Robert Downey Jr.) and the father (Robert Duvall). Downey eschews Tony Stark sarcasm. Duvall shines as the old man brought low by age and circumstances.
The small-town setting is wonderful and the performances of all the supporting players are uniformly excellent. As noted above this movie could’ve gone in many different directions but we get just enough about the various relationships to provide context for the main storyline without getting bogged down by blind alleys and unnecessary chatter.
Best of all you get to see Duvall deliver one of his best performances ever. Recommended.
Review copyright (c) 2015 by Dennis D. McDonald