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I saw ‘The Judge’ (probably the only one who did so)
October 19, 2014Posted by on
The Judge, starring Robert Downey, Jr and Robert Duvall, is a completely forgettable film in an otherwise impressive filmography of its two main stars. I caught this film last week when a local cinema had its Five-Dollar Night. The girlfriend was interested in it when we both caught a trailer for it the week prior on TV. I, too, was curious about the film that put these two stars together, so we decided to check it out. I wouldn’t call it a mistake, but by the end of its needlessly long 2.5 hour runtime, we both came out of the theatre with a collective “eh”. There was nothing inherently bad about the film, but nothing remarkable either.
One of the central issues is that this film tries to do way too much and, thereby, doesn’t fully commit to many of its subplots (and, trust me, there are lots). Duvall (a reserved, small town judge) and Downey, Jr (a smooth talking criminal defense lawyer) play a father and son who are estranged (of course they are). The father is accused of murder, so the son must return to the small town he abandoned years ago where his big city ways don’t mesh well with his father’s small town (and, as the movie would have us believe, better) mindset.
This, in itself, would have been enough for the film to focus on (even if it is beyond a cliché). But The Judge doesn’t stop there. There are several extraneous subplots (including a very bizarre one where Downey, Jr thinks he might have made out with his 20-year-old daughter) that just make the movie almost seem like a complete mess. It, surprisingly, holds it together, but barely.
The glue that keeps all of this together are the performances by Downey, Jr, Duvall, and a supporting cast of character actors. They are all lively, and it seems like the actors are having fun. But, even though this helped keep my interest in the film, even then, it pushes the limit on how melodramatic a film is allowed to get. The father and son go back and forth from hating each other to loving each other too many times for it to be palatable.
Perhaps that is the biggest issue with The Judge – it is too overly-melodramatic. Perhaps director David Dobkin wanted to run an experiment on how clichéd and melodramatic can a film be before breaking. If that’s what he did, then brilliant. He found that limit. It doesn’t shatter, but it comes perilously close.
The film bombed at the box office, and it is likely already forgotten (assuming people knew about it already – there was near-zero marketing for it). The Judge just isn’t worth the time to see. Rotten Tomatoes consensus predicts that this film will likely end up on basic cable. I can really see that happen. This is the type of not-bad-but-not-good film that one would channel surf through on a lazy Sunday afternoon.