The Judge has the makings of a great drama. Robert Downey Jr., at the height of his acting powers, has to defend his estranged father, Robert Duvall (the judge of the title), in a murder case shortly after the (natural) death of Downey’s mother.
Unfortunately, The Judge gets bogged down in a million subplots (Downey maybe has a daughter he never knew about; he’s getting divorced; his brother, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, blames him for a years past car accident; Downey’s ex-girlfriend, played by an underused Vera Farmiga, still lives in town), and Downey and Duvall literally have the same argument on camera about four times.
All that would be fine—each actor in this movie is superb—if it didn’t bog down the pacing. The Judge, at two hours and 21 minutes, is overlong by 40. Perhaps Downey the producer should have fired the editor, or at least let one of the other producers or director David Dobkin trim things a little. Plus, and this is something that only a native Hoosier would know, the towns standing in for the fictional Indiana town on screen are most definitely not found in Indiana.
Downey and Duvall are great, even if they don’t have to stretch much, and Janusz Kaminski’s photography is beautiful. But The Judge—which wants to be a big event picture—is kind of a snooze.
Directed by David Dobkin
With Downey, Duvall and Farmiga
Regal Stadium 14
Santa Fe Reporter