It appears that today I have witnessed two under-appreciated movies: this and Tusk. The Judge follows the story of Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.), a criminal lawyer who's in the midst of a divorce with his wife. Just before starting on a case, Hank receives a phone call informing him that his mother has past away. To attend the funeral, Hank returns to his childhood town. It's here that his father, Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), is accused of murder on the night of his wife's funeral.
The Judge is heavily aided by its sensational cast. The film's three main leads, Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall and Verga Farmiga, own this movie. While the film does a lot of other things right too, none can compare to the anger and power of these performances. Being a fan of both Downey and Duvall, watching them appear on screen together was beyond incredible. There's just so much gut-wrenching talent and dedicated performances punched into one film, yet for some reason it never appears forced or crowded. There was never an actor who overthrew the other in terms of quality. They balanced each other out, resulting in an engaging film that's difficult to deny. Vincent D'Onofrio and Jeremy Strong, although not in as crucial roles as the other three, both give solid and believable performances. This film never comes across as cheesy or overly sentimental or even unnatural. It all feels right and realistic, especially thanks to the phenomenal line up of actors and actresses.
David Dobkin, the film's director, doesn't have the best filmography behind him, yet he soars at directing this movie, proving he has the capability to direct quality films. Getting the best out of his actors and then capturing it beautifully on film, Dobkin hits all the right notes. The screenplay, co-written by one of the people responsible for Gran Torino, can be intense when it wants to be, emotional when it needs to be, and powerful when it tries to be. The court room scenes are written outstandingly; they're intense, thrilling and appear often enough so that we are satisfied with their quantity without milking their presence.
Although powerful and watchable, The Judge does come with its fair shares of familiar traits. The storyline is predictable, largely due to the way the characters act, but because of how much I enjoyed the rest of the film, this wasn't the biggest problem. Technically it is, but it's not that big an issue. It's executed right, so how familiar it is doesn't matter. As well as being predictable, the film also delves into a few clichés, particularly in the scenes where the characters try to bond with each other. It's been seen before, but it's not too big a deal when you've got Downey and Duvall to watch, which I could do endlessly.
To sum up, The Judge is the second under-appreciated film I've seen today. Granted, it's predictable and clichéd, but it's engaging to watch, sensationally cast, outstandingly written, powerful when it wants to be and is never overly sentimental.