Friday, March 20, 2015

"The Judge": review

I wanted to like "The Judge," which stars the great Robert Duvall alongside another capable Robert—Robert Downey, Jr. But at every turn the movie, like its eponymous main character, did its damnedest to make itself unlikable. Duvall plays hard-nosed veteran judge Joseph Palmer, and Downey plays his hotshot-lawyer son Hank. The two have had a stormy relationship since Hank's childhood, and now Hank's mother, the judge's wife, has just died and the judge has apparently gone out and hit someone with his old Cadillac. The movie's two major plots center on the elder Palmer's trial and on Hank's still-contentious relationship with his father. There's also Hank's relationships with his siblings, his ex-girlfriend, and his young daughter, who is caught in a custody battle involving Hank and Hank's soon-to-be-ex-wife.

There was enough grist here for a good family-cum-courtroom drama to justify the nearly 150-minute running time, but the movie waffled the dramatic possibilities that the story offered and came off as surpassingly strange: the music was too lighthearted (it often reminded me of the score for "Scent of a Woman," and sure enough, it turns out "The Judge" was indeed scored by the selfsame Thomas Newman); the editing was weirdly paced, and the tone wavered drunkenly between tearjerker and comedy (with a naughty whiff of incest thrown in for good measure). I know this has been said about many a mediocre film, but "The Judge" couldn't decide what sort of movie it wanted to be; it found its footing only in the last five minutes—by which point it was too late to salvage the narrative.

It's a shame to have that much raw acting talent on screen and to see it squandered by poor direction, editing, and scripting. I don't question the premise of the film, but "The Judge" felt like a textbook case of over-Hollywoodizing what must have been, originally, a fairly decent story. Sorry, but I can't recommend this movie, which was too long to boot.


1 comment:

John from Daejeon said...

Here's a great list of YA titles to read before they hit the big screen. Many of them are very good (one is truly great). Oh yeah, one still hasn't been released yet (next month).