The thought of Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall starring together in a movie is, in a word, awesome.
So what did director David Dobkin do with this exciting scenario? He gave us The Judge, a cliché-ridden mess.
Downey plays Hank Palmer, a typical movie lawyer who gets bad guys off the hook while pissing, literally and figuratively, on lawyers trying to put bad guys in jail. Just before he gets another criminal off the hook in Chicago, a call comes in from home: His mom died while tending to her flowers. Therefore, Hank is off to the funeral in his hometown, where his dad, Joseph (Duvall), is the town judge—and a major-league prick.
Of course, Hank’s hometown is the absolute opposite of Chicago: It’s a rural, country paradise that Hank despises, although we, the viewers, can see it’s a pretty darned nice place, especially if you like fishing trips, bike rides and hot bartenders who are willing to sleep with you.
Hank hates his dad—boy, does he hate him. Joseph hates his son, too. The reasons for their mutual hatred are slowly revealed, and not one of those reasons comes as a surprise.
After the funeral, Hank is ready to bolt and go deal with his developing divorce when he gets a call: It turns out dad’s Cadillac, and consequently his dad, are being investigated in a possible intentional vehicular homicide.
You know what this means? Court drama! A long court drama. By god, at 141 freaking minutes, is it ever so horribly long.
Billy Bob Thornton plays the evil lawyer Hank must face while defending his dad. We know he is evil, because he has a steel, collapsible cup out of which he drinks water—a cup he snaps open and shut with a vengeance. Other clichéd characters include the autistic brother who likes to film things, and the “Coulda Been Somebody!” brother (Vincent D’Onofrio) who lost a chance to be a baseball star when Hank got them into a car accident while they were teens.
The highlight of this movie would be the scene in which a sick Joseph shits himself in a futile attempt to make it to the toilet in time. Hank comes to his rescue, and we are treated to a scene in which we not only see Robert Duvall covered in shit, but the gruesome aftermath of Hank cleaning him off in the shower. Dobkin adds a little humor to the crap-shower scene, with Hank’s daughter outside the door doing a knock-knock joke. It’s funny, because the kid doesn’t know that behind the door is her dad and granddad, standing in a shower, covered with shit. Those are some major hijinks right there.
So … this is a courtroom drama involving Billy Bob Thornton and his stupid cup; a disease-of-the-week movie involving rampant shitting; a romance involving Hank getting it on with an ex (Vera Farmiga); a fish-out-of-water dramedy; a mystery about who done run somebody over; and a little bit Rain Man, due to the autistic-brother angle.
It’s really unbelievable that so much talent threw down for The Judge. Downey was on Howard Stern recently, and he claimed that Duvall was a bit of a holdout, and didn’t really want to make the movie. I’m guessing the opportunity to crap himself onscreen and then get a nice shower from Iron Man must’ve sold him on the gig.
The Judge is playing at theaters across the valley.