At The Omniplex: ‘The Judge’

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‘The Judge’

the judge 1Robert Downey Jr. is perhaps the most charismatic superstar that Hollywood has to offer at the moment.

His magnetic on-screen presence is seemingly unmatched by no one else, and he has a knack for delivering lengthy monologues in a fast-paced fashion, jumping back and forth between serious and tongue-in-cheek.

Downey Jr. is a show-stealer who chews the scenery all around him.

It’s surprising then, to think that he has never starred in his own courtroom drama… well that is until now.

This week Downey Jr. stars as a wunderkind lawyer Hank Palmer in ‘The Judge’. Hank’s juggling his impressive career, his crumbling marriage and his relationship with his daughter. To complicate matters, he suddenly gets a phone call informing him that his mother has just passed.

Having been estranged from his family for years now, Hank decides to make the journey home to his small hometown of Carlinville for the funeral. His father, Joseph Palmer (played by Robert Duvall), is the judge in Carlinville, and has been for over 42 years.

Joseph, or ‘Judge’, as Hank calls him, holds a strong grudge against Hank for his absence over the years. Both men are too stubborn to make amends with each other, and Hank is just dying to get the hell out of the town for at least another twenty years.

But as Hank is boarding a plane back to Chicago, he receives a call from his brother Glen informing him that the judge has been involved in a hit and run accident, killing a man that he once sentenced to prison.

A lengthy court case is about to begin to determine if it the collision was a murder or an accident. Hank swallows his pride and ignores any long-standing animosity in order to help give his father a fighting chance in court.

What surprised me about this film was how almost every character has a rich backstory that’s slowly revealed piece-by-piece as the plot progresses.

What’s even more impressive is that for as big a cast as the film has, the backstories never become overbearing or tiresome. They add a certain dimension to the film that really helped get me invested.

What probably makes this work so well is the fact that ‘The Judge’ is first and foremost an ‘actor’s film’. It’s completely performance heavy. And it’s a real testament to the cast that every single actor in the film goes above and beyond the call of duty, regardless of how much screen time they get.

For a film that’s rife with so much history and bubbling tension between it’s characters, ‘The Judge’ doesn’t stray away from its soft side. There’s plenty of little moments that show off the family’s sweet side, and that unspoken bond which they all have, regardless of their ups and downs.

But the bulk of the film’s most memorable scenes are set, of course, in the courtroom. And that’s where Robert Downey Jr. really shines. He completely dominates the screen in those scenes. Watching him strut around the courtroom fighting for his father’s innocence is as captivating as it is compelling,

Co-star and acting legend Robert Duvall is as excellent as ever with his stern, yet guarded performance as Judge Joseph Palmer. And what’s better than both the actors individual performances is watching them bounce dialogue back and forth with each other. And luckily, the vast majority of the film focuses on the relationship between the two of them.

‘The Judge’ exceeded my expectations. It’s a wonderfully engaging film with a great storyline and a marvellous cast that serve as the spine for the film. It’s well worth seeing while you have the chance.


• Follow John Lyons on Twitter: @Fireinthelyons

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