Monday, 20 October 2014

The Judge - review

On paper, The Judge is a slam dunk of a case for any vicious film critic. "Judge not, less ye be judged!" would have made for a much better tagline!

The story of a flash, self-centred city lawyer returning to his home town for the funeral of his mother, visit his family he hasn't seen in years including his Judge father who despise each other only to end up representing him in a murder case and at the same time exorcise old family demons sounds like a cliched, cloying courtroom drama. Think Elizabethtown meets John Grisham.

It certainly starts off with a strong case for the prosecution with one of the worst CGI shots in recent memory, a series of "returning home" beats straight out of Grosse Pointe Blank, Elizabethtown and Young Adult, a mentally disabled brother character who's only reason for his disability seems to be to provide humour at his expense and Downey Jr's performance seemingly set on cruise control.

However it is not an open and shut case.

For the defence there is good support from Billy Bob Thornton as the rival lawyer and a sassy spark from Vera Farmiga as the one that got away (but now has a daughter who he may have got to know a bit too well) but the film rests on the strong on screen relationship between Downey Jr and Duvall. It starts of frosty but as the walls between them come down there are many touching moments that are well played by both actors that lead to an emotional catharsis in the courtroom as Downey's lawyer makes a desperate last roll of the dice and secrets from both sides are revealed.

The jury might be out on this one but there is enough goodwill to Downey Jr and Duvall to give this a stay of execution.

3 stars

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