Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Judge Review

I'm a pretty big fan of Robert Downey Jr. and I definitely don't shy away from the fact that I love The Avengers. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, is absolutely incredible. The man was born to play that role. However, it's also great to see Robert Downey Jr. in his other roles because the man is also just a great actor. Thus when I first heard about The Judge I was really excited. I didn't know much about it back then, but it had Robert Downey Jr. in it and so I was sold. It first debuted in the Toronto International Film Festival and unfortunately it performed poorly. Upon its release, critics were split with it, but audiences actually loved it. Thus I was confused and didn't know how to feel, so I went in completely neutral. As it turns out, I'm about in the middle of the pack. This isn't a bad movie and the acting certainly is fantastic, but it also could've been a lot better.

In The Judge, Robert Downey Jr. plays this pretty stuck-up lawyer. He has attitude problems, marriage problems, and father problems. He doesn't visit his parents much, but upon the death of his mother he takes a leave of absence from his job to go down to the funeral. Right as he's about to return, a situation arises wherein his father, who has been a judge for 40 years, is convicted of murder. Thus Robert Downey Jr. ends up staying down there to be his father's lawyer in the case. This story tries to be super uplifting and emotional, but for the most part it actually falls pretty flat. I'll get into that more in just a bit, but what really saves this movie from being a disaster is the two main leads. Yes, I'm talking about who you think I'm talking about. Robert Downey Jr. I told you loved his acting and he's fantastic in this. I didn't even think about Tony Stark as I was watching. Just Robert Downey Jr. But even more impressive in this is Robert Duvall. Duvall plays the father in this that gets convicted of murder and by goodness there are so many scenes with him that are exceptional. He's been one name been talked about to get an Oscar nomination and as I try to think of the scene that they would show at the Oscars if this does happen, there's just too many to choose from.

While Downey Jr. and Duvall did save this movie from being a disaster, their performances alone weren't enough to turn this into a success. No matter who you have on screen, if you don't have a good screenplay its hard to have a successful movie. The first problem is that almost the whole first half of the movie is just boring. There is a lot of set-up and a lot of personal interaction between the characters. And while many times that's a good thing, this time it just didn't work. The flow was off. The chemistry wasn't great. I didn't care about most of the characters. It was just turning into a mess and I began to think that I was going to end on the side of those who hated the movie. But then it picked up. Specifically the court scenes began to happen and that's where the movie got interesting. However, amid those scenes there still was the annoying fly on the wall that wouldn't go away. Unfortunately that fly was Vera Farmiga. I'm actually a big fan of hers. She stars as Norman Bates' mother Norma in the new TV series Bates Motel and she is fantastic in that. Thus I was excited to see her in this, but her character is completely useless and super annoying the whole time. Disappointing waste of a fantastic actress.

Back to the court cases. When they happen, the movie becomes Robert Downey Jr. versus Billy Bob Thornton in the court room and by goodness is it entertaining. I wish more of the movie was in the court room because then it would've been excellent. Speaking of Billy Bob Thornton, I forgot to mention him earlier, but he's the prosecuting attorney in this, which essentially means he's villain in this and he is just mean. This is the one point where I felt like Downey Jr. was going to pull out his Iron Man suit and turn this thing into an outright physical dual. Which by the way Marvel, if you are reading this, it might not be a bad idea to cast Thornton as a Marvel villain. That would work really well. Finally, I'm not going to talk about the ending, but there was a point where I thought the movie was going to end and I would've been content. But then it kept going. It got to a point where I think it is going to end for a second time and at that point I would've been super happy. But then it keeps going still and the actual ending is pretty terrible in my opinion. I'm not saying the movie is too long. It isn't. I'm just saying the actual ending isn't satisfying.

So overall, The Judge is a very mixed bag for me. Yes, Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall are both excellent. I really hope Duvall ends up getting his Oscar nomination because he deserves it. But Downey Jr. and Duvall can't totally carry this movie on their back when they weren't given a whole lot to work with outside the entertaining court scenes in the second half of the movie. But they do the best that they can and together they make it so the movie isn't a complete disaster. It just ends up being disappointing overall because had they polished it up a bit, this could've been an excellent movie. But it's not. My grade for The Judge is a 6.5/10.

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