The judge is Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), a small Indiana town magistrate holding court in a beautiful old building on the town square. His wife of many years has died, so his wayward son, Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) travels from Chicago, where he is a high-powered attorney, for the funeral.
Upon his arrival, Hank is shunned by his father, and warily embraced by his two brothers, Glen (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Dale (Jeremy Strong). A hit-and-run accident after the funeral implicates Joseph, and what should have been a misdemeanor twists itself into a murder trial, with Hank defending his father.
Being in a town which he despised and couldn't wait to leave resurrects a host of old issues for Hank, including his high school sweetheart, Samantha Powell (Vera Farmiga) and her fatherless daughter Carla (Leighton Meester). It also brings to light tragedies that set people's lives on different courses.
The screenplay for "The Judge" was written by Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque. It is a disjointed, manipulative, sappy abomination. Downey Jr. comes off as a smarmy, cocky bastard, which is what he's supposed to be, but his initial meeting with Dax Shepard, who plays C.P. Kennedy, is insulting to anyone who practices law in a tiny burg. Schenk and Dubuque have managed to write poor Kennedy as a total boob.
Hank and Joseph are so offensive that no one could care about them. It's difficult to believe that Hank, Glen and Dale's mother apparently loved Joseph so dearly. I would have shot him. But, I digress ---
What's even more egregious is showing Duvall puking his guts out and soiling his boxers at the same time. Yes, Joseph has cancer, but do we REALLY need to see these hygienic details? It's disgusting and adds nothing to the value of the story/film.
I am SO sick and tired of every single movie including a vomiting scene and/or something about diarrhea. For those screenwriters who believe it provides realism --- get real! It simply ruins a scene or two or three in your movie. However, truthfully, after the last scene with Downey, Jr. twirling the judge's chair in his father's courtroom, I was ready to vomit.
For the moviegoers who are looking forward to the pairing of Duvall and Downey Jr. --- forget it! This script isn't worth their time or energy --- nor yours!
Opinion: Don't Bother!
A cantankerous old judge in Indiana, known for meting out justice to criminals convicted in his courtroom, is suddenly thrust into the role of defendant in a vehicular homicide investigation. There is physical evidence connecting him to the scene of the crime, but under oath he cannot recall all the events of the fateful evening. It is up to his hotshot attorney son, Hank (Robert Downey Jr.), to secure a not guilty verdict, the truth be damned.
Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall) is initially defended by local lawyer C.P. Kennedy (Dax Shepard), but when Kennedy's incompetence shows, Palmer turns to Hank, recently in from Chicago for his mother's funeral, to take over.
This is at best a mediocre courtroom drama. Much better judicial encounters can be seen on any episode of TV's "The Good Wife". Having said that, the best scenes in "The Judge" do take place in the court, primarily with Hank verbally jousting with the dogged prosecutor, Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton), who lives up to his name.
Outside the courtroom there is a lot of interaction between Hank and his brothers, Glen (Vincent D'Onofrio) and the mentally-challenged Dale (Jeremy Strong); between Hank and his former lover, Samantha (Vera Farmiga); between Hank and his young daughter, Lauren (Emma Tremblay); and of course, between Hank and his father. This is too much material that is immaterial to the story, and a lot about which we seriously don't care.
If the film had stuck to the drama unfolding in the court, it would have run about 90 minutes, resulting in a passable made-for-television movie. But it didn't, so there is ample time for unpleasant scenes like old man Palmer vomiting and crapping all over his bathroom. "The Judge" is barely watchable because of Downey Jr.'s droll performance.
Opinion: Mild Wait for DVD