Entertainment, News

The Judge – A Duval and Downey Duet.

0 131

thejudge

By Mark Pajak

Who else but Robert Downey Jr could make pissing on someone’s shoes seem lovable? Open on a courthouse urinal where Downey’s character Hank Palmer (a skilled yet mercenary defence attorney) is mid-stream. Then the council for the prosecution taps him on the shoulder, Downey turns bodily and splash – a whole audience sniggers. Hank is arrogant yet charming, always suited and effortlessly the best in his field as Robert Downey Jr plays Robert Downey Jr yet again.

The story takes place in Hank’s boyhood town of Carnville, Indiana where he reluctantly returns to attend his mother’s funeral. This makes the opening Chicago scenes a race to get to the small town setting; Hank is set up as a loving if distracted father, a husband on the verge of divorce, then cut to the Midwest and the plot slows to molasses. Maybe it’s the Indiana heat or that Carnville is a farming community where things take time. Maybe it’s because the plot has now hit a wad of supporting characters in a tightly wound family where past angers and even people’s names need to be unpicked gently.

Enter Robert Duval as Hank’s father, Joseph. This moral small-town judge is the antitheses of the big-city lawyer. His relationship with his three sons is distant but unsurprisingly Joseph harbours a special dislike for Hank, as Hank does for him. Then the day after the funeral a body is discovered with all evidence pointing to Joseph. After a farcical preliminary hearing, Hank steps in to represent his father and the strolling plot begins an inexorable momentum.

As with most story’s set around a trial there’s a formula. The court case is the spine with its many reveals peppered with gasps from the jury. Outside the courtroom the complexities of this ‘Picasso painting of a family’ are worked through in moments that do not linger but are always interrupted, leading to fresh moments that build and build.

Duval is both convincingly cantankerous and unexpectedly frail, giving rise to heart-bruising moments of humanity. While Downey gives us his trademark blend of humour and vulnerability that proves the old mantra that ‘If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’. However, though the choir of supporting actors sing with gusto, the film’s central duet drowns them out leaving so much background noise; a flimsy love story, a rich brotherly side plot that’s left untapped and the mystery of what happens to Hank’s Chicago family. By the end of the film the momentum is out of control and the plot seems to blink at the approaching end and shouts ‘ta da!’ in panic, giving a lingering feeling of deflation as the credits role.

Overall The Judge is amusing if unsatisfying. If you want a wry smile and there’s a Robert Downey Jr. poster on your wall, then this film has something to offer. However, if you want a new perspective on justice and there’s an Atticus Finch poster on your wall, then best read a John Grisham book instead.

Mark Pajak is studying on the Creative Writing MA with the Manchester Writing School at MMU. He has been published with Magma, Ink Sweat & Tears and Smoke Magazine among others. Follow him on Twitter here.

About the author / 

aAh!

aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More News Stories:

  • Opinion: “Our real legacy at university is the friends we make along the way”

    We all prioritise different things in life: our relationships, academic achievement, and financial success. While these can be great catalysts for short and long-term goals, making us resilient,  fixating on these goals can become overwhelming, even detrimental. Focusing on what we feel we have to achieve can make it easy to lose sight of the…

  • Reading and Leeds Festival 2024: The best bands to see this year

    Featured image: Georgina Hurdsfield Overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of choice on offer at this year’s Reading and Leeds Festival? Don’t worry, we’ve got you. We’ve trawled the lineups to bring you a cluster of acts to watch on the August bank holiday weekend. From jungle to riotous punk, there’s a bounty of brilliant bands…

  • Film Review: The Idea of You – A sappy feel-good rom-com

    Featured image: PA Media In this sappy, heart-warming rom-com, two lovers meet at Coachella as Solène (Anne Hathaway) takes her daughter to a meet and greet at the Californian music festival. Known for her iconic roles in The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and The Princess Diaries (2001), Hathaway plays the role of a 40-year-old divorcee…

  • Travel: Tips for multi-country trips abroad while keeping your bank account happy

    Featured image: Georgia Pearson The summer break from university is approaching and conversations about travel plans can be heard across campus. But with the cost of living at a high, students and young people are looking for cheaper ways to travel this summer. Travelling to multiple countries during one trip can be a budget-friendly way…