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The Mass Media

Robert Downey Jr. commands the screen in new movie ‘The Judge’

‘The Judge’ starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall

When thinking of Robert Downey Jr., most people instantly think of the quick-witted billionaire Tony Stark, better known as Ironman. You wouldn’t expect him to appear in a moving, heartfelt film, let alone excel in it. Well folks, “The Judge” is exactly that film. Without giving away too much, this film revolves around big time lawyer Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.), and his emotional experience of leaving the big city to deal with his mothers’ death and his dysfunctional family, including his father who is accused of murder.

To begin, the setting of this movie was absolutely beautiful. Taking place in a beautiful small town in Illinois, the setting conveys a perfect small town vibe to it where it’s not overly exaggerated. A lot of the scenery shots are breathtaking and worth seeing alone. It adds to the overall tone of the film as well showing that it was a close-knit town, and that everyone knew everything about each other, making the trial that much more important.

Now, going into this movie I didn’t expect much. A typical courtroom drama revolving around a dysfunctional family didn’t seem like it had much to offer. Boy was I wrong. This film not only provided an incredibly moving experience, it was actually pretty funny (which of course you can’t escape with Robert Downey Jr. as your lead). The comedy juxtaposed perfectly with the emotion in this film creating a movie that accurately represented a dysfunctional family. Not many people can create a tone where the comedy doesn’t completely ruin the emotion by being there, and I think this film nails it.

The chemistry between the actors was very noticeable. You almost believed that this was a real family. Robert Duvall’s performance as Joseph Palmer, Hank’s father, was incredible. He plays the prideful judge who is accused of murder and forced to stand trail against the justice-seeking attorney, Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton). Vincent D’Onofrio plays Hank’s older brother, Glen, who was bound to have a career in the major leagues before a car accident tragically ended that. Alongside him is Hank’s little brother Dale, played by Jeremy Strong. Dale is mentally challenged and expresses himself through films that he makes. Together, they create a believable family worn thin by tragedy. While it’s clear from the first 10 minutes that most of Hank’s relationships, whether it be with his wife or his father, are not great, it shows insight into what he hopes to accomplish by going back home.

The only downside to this film was the length. While most scenes were relevant to the film, some were unnecessary and sort of drew me out of it. The total runtime of the film was around two and a half hours and could have easily been cut down to just two hours by taking out irrelevant flashbacks and unnecessary dialogues. Other than that, it was extremely well done and surprisingly watchable. I’m going to give it a 8/10.