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The Judge ***

Oscar winner Robert Duvall, and Oscar nominees Robert Downey Jr and Vera Farmiga star in this heavyweight family drama, directed by David Dobkin. Robert Downey Jr plays big city lawyer Hank Palmer, who returns to his childhood home for his mother’s funeral… only to find himself defending his estranged father, the town’s judge (Robert Duvall), when he’s charged with murder.On his journey to discover the truth, Hank also reconnects with the family, friends, and the town he walked away from years before.
With a heavyweight cast that also includes no less than Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Billy Bob Thornton and Jeremy Strong, this is something of a dream team. And, had it been made in around 1996, history would probably have remembered this audience-pleasing drama as a real winner. Problem is, things have moved on… and 2014 audiences tend to expect something a little more… well… subtle, in their drama.
But that’s not to dismiss this movie out of hand. I actually enjoyed it. Quite a lot, in fact. Yes, it tries too hard. And is very, very in-your-face. And the many clichés have to tread carefully to avoid tripping over each other! But, the quality of the cast is undeniable. Downey Jr is in full-on Tony Stark mode (without the accompanying full metal jacket), and displays that rare movie talent of being able to be both cocky and vulnerable. Duvall could give Walter Matthau a run for his money in grumpy old man terms… and Farmiga continues to do no wrong.
The cinematography is beautiful, and the location work a delight. The storytelling might be a little obvious at times… with a script that doesn’t shy away from showboating. But it’s a movie that’s easy to follow. Will make you smile. And might even moisten the corner of your eye at times.
To paraphrase Duvall himself, it’s not the best movie of its type, but it is decent. Will it win any awards? Not in this decade. But leave your cynicism in the foyer and you might find yourself having an old-school good time at the movies.

Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga
Director: David Dobkin

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