The Judge 2014 Movie Scene Robert Downey Jr. as Hank Palmer smiling at the court's verdict

The Judge [2014]

Up until a couple of years ago, I avoided movies like this like a plague. I simply didn’t like dramas as they dealt with difficult subjects and I was looking for something else. Something more entertaining and pacier. Since then, I started paying more attention to this genre and found many great movies. Like the one we’re going to be talking about today. The Judge is not a straight-up drama, it’s more of a dramedy with hints of a thriller. It has that old-school big movie vibe, big names, a compelling story, and excellent performances.

We will be following Hank Palmer, a guy who ran away from his small hometown as soon as he could. He’s now a successful lawyer with lots of money but also lots of problems. A personal tragedy will bring him back to his nesting grounds. And pretty much immediately he will have to face his dysfunctional family, a bit of romance, and one big murder case. So, there are a lot of moving parts in The Judge. David Dobkin, who got his start in the industry by directing music videos for 2Pac and Coolio, is the last person I would expect to see as the director of such a movie.

A lot of his movies were mildly successful comedies like Wedding Crashers and The Change-up. He’s also behind one of my favorite movies of 2020, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga starring Will Ferrell. However, he was excellent here along with an all-star cast. In the lead role, we find none other than Robert Downey Jr. taking a break from his Marvel opus. In fact, Dobkin and Downey decided to subvert audiences’ expectations by playing into his role of Ironman right from the start. Dependable veteran Robert Duvall gave one hell of a performance as his elderly father, former judge Joseph Palmer. 

The Judge features solid pacing and a lively atmosphere but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be emotional scenes here. Some of them hit closer to home than others, exploring mortality, family relationships, and other important subjects. I say family relationships but what I really mean is the relationship between an elderly father and his son who’s in his prime. Throughout all of this, we will also find bits and pieces of subtle humor and poignant observation. And on top of it all is a courtroom drama like no other.

To sum it up, The Judge is light as a feather but it hits like a ton of bricks. Sure, it could’ve been a bit shorter as it features a running time of almost two and a half hours. This is a movie that’s going to eat up your whole movie night. However, in the end, you will be satisfied and consider this a time well spent. Finally, the small town setting also provides a welcome and rather nostalgic environment for such a story. Especially if you grew up in a similar kind of place.

Director: David Dobkin

Writer: Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque, David Dobkin, Nick Schenk

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong

Fun Facts: Robert Duvall didn’t recognize Downey Jr. although they’ve worked together on at least two projects. He said that Downey “cleaned up well”.


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