North Texas Daily

Downey Jr. gives powerful performance in “The Judge”

Downey Jr. gives powerful performance in “The Judge”

October 14
00:20 2014

Dalton LaFerney / Senior Staff Writer

Robert Downey Jr. gives one of his top performances in “The Judge” as Hank Palmer, a rich, high-powered lawyer in Chicago. Downey’s signature confidence, wit and attitude are displayed throughout the movie, but he adds more depth and sentiment in this role.

The film is one of the best this year, but there are a few scenes it could have done without and it is slow to develop because of the characterization that is needed later in the movie. Interspersed throughout the film are moments of great happiness, humor and humility as David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers” and “The Change Up”) directs a film that is human.

Hank leaves busy Chicago when his mother passes away, forcing him to visit his hometown, a folky, timeless river town. Hank is out of place, as he hasn’t been home in ten years, but he is quickly pulled back into the community when the trial begins for his father, who is suspected of murder and prosecuted by Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton).

The always-marvelous Robert Duvall plays Joseph Palmer, father to Hank, who is a hardline rural Indiana county judge. Duval and Downey are a great pair, with Duval presenting Downey with the central self conflict. Hank wants his father’s approval, and Joseph credits himself for his son’s large success.

The chemistry between Hank and Joseph is what keeps the story important. The Palmer family has a deep-rooted history with tragedy and heartbreak. One scene with the two — the movie’s transition from a legal battle to a heartfelt family story — shows Hank caring for his father who is also battling health issues. It’s an emotional scene that invites the viewer to begin caring about the Palmer family.

Downey fits perfectly within that humanly theme as he’s swarmed with marital problems, but is welcomed back to earth when he is reunited with a high school sweetheart played by Vera Farmiga.

In a scene with his brothers, Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Dale (Jeremy Strong), Hank deflects some troublemakers seeking a bar fight with his stinging words, seen commonly in Downey characters.

The scenes are nothing special to look at, but do fit well with the small-town tone of the movie. The film is also more oriented to the dialogue rather than action.

Dale, younger brother to Downey’s character, brings his family together with his video camera, capturing each moment, highlighting the intimacy and bringing forth the background of the Palmer family. He’s an important character because of that, and provides comic relief.

Billy Bob Thornton and Downey square off in court in what is a prized performance. Downey dances the jury around as Thornton opposes him perfectly. It’s a treat to see the two battle it out.

The movie’s closure answers every question symbolically and factually. Overall, the movie is quite relaxing, displaying love, peace, hardship and self-reflection. It’s definitely a must-see film.

About Author

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton is the editor of the Daily.

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