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“The Judge” is a 2 hour and 20 minute film, half family drama and half courtroom drama, at least 20 minutes too long. The acting, particularly by Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall elevate this film above all the clichés that you know are coming.

On the verge of divorce, after finding his wife has cheated on him, and his mother having died, Chicago lawyer Hank (Downey Jr.) returns to his small hometown in Indiana where his father (Duvall) has been a judge for 38 years and sober for 28. Hank’s older brother Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio) had been a promising baseball player is now a married man with children who works in a tire store and a younger brother, Dale, (Jeremy Strong) who, due to mental disabilities, constantly has a camera in his hand recording everything.

In spite of two or three twists and turns there are all the familiar scenarios including a high school girlfriend Sam (Vera Farmiga) who has a fatherless daughter who was born 9 months after Hank left town, a hyper young waitress Carla (Leighton Meester), who comes on to Hank along with a only in Hollywood storyline that makes for Hank to take on the defense of the judge who is accused of murder. This brings in a country bumpkin lawyer, Dax Shepard, which makes it necessary to be helped by Hank, along with slick opposing prosecuting lawyer, Dwight (Billy Bob Thornton) is holding a grudge against Hank. There is a completely unnecessary story involving Hank’s far too precocious daughter Lauren (Emma Trembay) showing that both the judge and her father have a soft side.

Both Downey Jr. and Duvall bring their A game to the movie, especially in a scene that could have been a complete turn off, and Farmiga lights up the screen in her scenes with Downey Jr. Billy Bob Thornton brings gravitas to the film with another one of his fine performances and is getting better looking every year as he grows older.

The direction by David Dobkin, along with the screenplay by Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque, follow a course we have seen many times before brought to a higher level by the acting. The director of photography Janusz Kaminski, brings a Hollywood image of small town perfection to the film with everything green and shining. There is a breathtaking scene looking out from a restaurant that is shown twice.


That was a good movie Brave_Heart saw it last night.

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