The Judge is a story written by Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque, and David Dobkin who took on directing duties as well. The movie stars Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio, Billy Bob Thornton, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, and Leighton Meester.
Hank Palmer (Downey) is in the middle of defending a major case when he gets news that his mother has passed way. This is pretty much the only type of news that could get him to leave the big city and return to the small, mid western town he had hoped to leave behind. Reuniting with his estranged father was especially not on his list of priorities although when the man known to the town as The Judge (Duvall) ends up needing his son to defend him in a murder trial, Hank is forced to face his past and help the one man who has given him no reason to want to be saved.
The one thing I was most interested in seeing was if Downey could be perceived as someone in a movie other than Tony Stark as there may not have been a more iconic persona in all of Hollywood over the last decade. I would have to say he passed this first test with flying colors as I never once felt like I was waiting for him to just put on his iron outfit and flying around...although that still would have been pretty cool. The personality he gives to Hank Palmer is very signature RDJ although he adds a much more serious and grounded tone that really defines who the character is. Overall, the cast is very good with Duvall delivering like he always does and the oh so amazing Vera Farmiga who is stellar in any role she decides to take on.
I must warn you that this movie is two hours and 20 minutes long and you feel every one of this minutes go be in very deliberate fashion. While the story is very dramatic and engaging, I really believe it could have been told with at least 10-15 minutes cut out of it and would still have the same kind of impact. I'm all for letting a director have his way with a story, but giving a guy known for Wedding Crashers and Fred Claus two and a half hours to tell a story may have been a bit much. That being said, this film is definitely driven by the actors who all play very strong roles and that is what makes this a movie a really solid effort.
Robert Downey Jr. is looking to play more characters in smaller movies like this as he moves forward in his career and The Judge is a great first step in branching away from the big blockbuster type fare he has become known for. I would definitely recommend that you check this movie out as it is one of the better dramatic features I have seen this year and is packed with some heavyweight performances you won't soon forget.