The Judge

by Phoebe Churches
the judge

THE JUDGE (2014, 141 MINS)

Do you like sentimental movies? Yeah – me too from time to time. Do you like schmaltzy, soppy impossibly cloying films which could be great, have a cracker, top-notch A-list cast but just never make it into third gear?

Yeah, not so much.

I do however like a bit of coherent intelligent courtroom action – but unfortunately The Judge fails to deliver. Things start out well enough –a bit of suspense builds as we meet the key players. Hank (played by Robert Downey Jnr with his usual cocaine-urbane method) is a slick, badass city defence attorney who spends his days securing the freedom of guilty but rich types.

We meet the titular character (played by a suitably dour Robert Duvall) a humourless and strait-laced parochial judge who happens to be Hank’s dad. Naturally they are estranged with a tortured history between them. Then something happens and Hank has to defend his dad on a murder charge.

Well, I would have said the stage is fairly set for a tense thriller with loads of clever courtroom arguments and twists and turns and triumph and adversity. Alas – the fine cast and worthy acting just can’t save a script that veers so recklessly between tear-jerking sentiment and courtroom action. The latter revolves around a defence which descends rapidly into foolishness and then manages to go even further downhill to be just ludicrous.

Harsh, I know – but I felt really ripped off by this film. The film is self-indulgently long. The Court action really could have sustained the film (had the case theory been vaguely plausible). Billy-Bob Thornton who plays the prosecutor barely gets a run at anything and instead there is a lunking sub-plot about Hank’s childhood sweetheart that just dragged the thing into the abyss for me.

The promise of smart actors and a good yarn is squandered by the oversupply of cliché and an outright improbable story line. I didn’t buy one bit of it – and on that basis I feel as though I had been sentenced to cruel and unusual punishment. Sorry Margaret and David, I give it one star.

Image from IMDB