Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.
THE JUDGE packs just about every soap opera cliche into its very long 2 hours 20 minutes running time – death from cancer, illegitimate children, family power struggles, marriage tensions, possible incest, father-son bickering, car accidents leading to permanent disabilities, regret – it goes on and on. If this was all the movie was it would be completely worthless to watch. The whole story plays itself out like a midday TV movie (I suspect it may turn up on television as a two-part miniseries) with viewer emotions being overtly manipulated as if we are on a roller coaster. Fortunately, it has two very good actors that manage to lift this movie to something quite watchable. Robert Duvall plays Joseph Palmer in a powerful, intense, and commanding role as the small town judge. And Robert Downey Jr, as the estranged son, Hank Palmer, who has to return home and deal with his father’s being charged with murder, is charismatic and witty, as he navigates the family and town’s oppressive politics. It is these two actors performances that make a trip to the cinema worth the effort. But don’t expect sophisticated cinema – just a web of cliche raised to average by two excellent performances.