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Title: The Judge

Movie: :4.5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :3stars:

HTS Overall Score:82

I saw the trailer for “The Judge” months ago and it pretty much captivated me from the moment I saw Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall on screen together. RDJ has knocking it out of the park lately and Duvall is a living legend (and much like Patrick Stewart, he’s looked old for about 30+ years). I love trial movies and a I love a good family drama, so the draw of seeing an all-star cast deal with BOTH issues was enough to peak my interest, to say the least. “The Judge”, luckily, met just about all my expectations and delivered on a well-crafted film that tugs at all the right heart strings and keeps you engaged with the murder trial equally. There are a few flaws to the film, but none that will keep you from watching this excellent movie.

Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is an extremely successful defense attorney. He’s got the world by the tail and can’t lose. He’s got a beautiful daughter, a model quality wife, and a Ferrari sitting in the front driveway. The only problem is, his life is a sham. His wife is going to leave him, his daughter doesn’t know her dad very well and Hank makes his living defending rich criminals whom he knowingly helps escape justice. This king of the world façade comes crumbling down when he gets word that his mother passed away (in the middle of a high profile case no less). Taking time off from his busy life of getting criminals off, Hank travels back to small town Indiana in order to pay respects to his mother and hopefully ignore his father. The middle of three brothers, Hank is the black sheep of the family. His older brother Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio) is the local tire shop owner, and his mentally challenged (but sweet) younger brother, Dale (Jeremy Strong), stuck around in Indiana while Hank was the rebel who went to law school and left, never to look back, leaving his father and he on rather rocky terms. Patriarch Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall) is the king of his little root, being a Judge in the same small town for over 42 years and has the demeanor of one of those little country judges. A bit harsh, knows everything, sees the world in black and white, while Hank is the epitome of someone he despises. Sleazy, city bred and willing to bend the rules to suit him. As you can guess, things don’t exactly go well during the reunion, that is, until the Judge is accused of first degree murder.

The old legend is now under fire after a criminal that Joseph Palmer put away 20 years ago is out on the street only to be seemingly killed by him the night of the funeral. Hank and Joseph now have to work together, or at least TRY to work together to find out just what happened. Joseph has been undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer and the meds have left him with memory gaps, giving the slick prosecutor (Billy Bob Thornton) the perfect opportunity to take down the old Judge, and giving Hank Palmer the run of his life. Now he has to buckle down and fight for the one man who never seemed to fight for him when he was young AND figure out just what happened that night.

“The Judge” is a fantastic little drama that focuses much more on the familial goings on than the trial, which was something I didn’t see coming. With the movie running almost 2.5 hours long we have plenty of trial drama, but what becomes very clear part way through the trial, is that the trial is nothing but a backdrop on which to paint the redemption story for the family. Even the outcome isn’t a shocker, or something that drives the main plotline, but rather the vehicle. Watching Hank and Joseph find some sort of awkward reconciliation is heartbreaking, as it’s much more realistic than other films in the same genre. The two men never will truly see eye to eye, as the damage done by each other in those younger days has already been done. Those formative years are lost, but the movie does an incredible job at showing just how much can be salvaged, even if not everything can be regained. There are some moments where it appeals to your inner sap, but those are actually few and far between, as the story of grief and pain has to have SOME happy points.

My only complaints with the film was that it tried to be a bit TOO broad sweeping at times. It had a bit too much on its plate for the runtime that was allotted. We have a romance between an old girlfriend (Vera Farmiga), the reconciliation between brothers, the reconciliation between father and son, a full on murder trial complete with a “whodunit” as well as a relationship between father and daughter as well. Most of it is handled extremely well, but I felt that a few plotlines should have either been dropped or at least added another 30 minutes to the film to flesh out, as they felt a tad rushed and cramped at times. What we DID see of all those plotlines was handled extremely well, it’s just a victim of not enough time to tell all the stories syndrome. None of this should deter you from watching the film though, as they were never detrimental and only minor quibbles at best.


Rated R for language including some sexual references

Video :4.5stars:
Warner’s 2.40:1 AVC encoded transfer is impressive to say the least, and will give no film fan a cause for complaint. Shot on film, the movie has a very natural texture to it, with a nice layer of film grain and plenty of raw detail. The colors tend to be a tad cool, with plenty of greys and whites, and blues to saturate the screen. Fine detail is fantastic as each crevice and curve of Duvall’s craggy face is there for the world to see. Individual fiber’s on the roughhewn country clothes, the scratches on the damaged car, the scuffs on the old Indiana house are all beautifully shown and leave nothing to the imagination. Interestingly enough the white levels have been pushed a bit high, and that leaves skin tones looking a tad pale every once in a while, and makes the image look artificially bright at times, although this seems stylistically done more than anything. Black levels are extremely impressive and stay a nice inky black for the whole movie. There was a bit of black crush in some of the indoor scenes, especially downstairs during the hurricane warning, but again, nothing that was very prominent.

Audio :4stars:
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless track is about what you would expect for a film of this genre. The track is a bit front heavy and the surrounds a bit light in the loafers. That’s not to say they aren’t used effectively with ambient noises and background sounds, but there isn’t usually a whole lot of times where they get to come out and play with the rest of the speakers. LFE is present and adds a nice sense of low end dimensionality to the film, and while it’s never a powerhouse, the addition is very well blended. The dialogue is the main focus of the film, and it truly never disappoints. It’s locked up there in the front center channel and blends seamlessly with the rest of the soundstage. The dynamic range is solid, if not overly wide, and the track never has a balance issue with the dialogue and the effects. Simply put, it does extremely well for the type of film that it is.

Extras :3stars:

• Commentary by David Dobkin
• Inside "The Judge"
• Getting Deep with Dax Shepard
• Deleted Scenes
• Deleted Scenes with Commentary by David Dobkin

Overall: :4stars:

“The Judge”is a bit more formulaic than I’d originally hoped for, but in the end it’s a very satisfying drama that is punctuated with fantastic performances by our leads. Robert and Robert give stand out performances that really give the movie a heart and soul, and the secondary characters flesh out the cast beautifully. The video and audio specs are excellent, and the set has some pretty solid extras with some great tidbits of behind the scenes info so I have to give this one a full thumbs up. Definitely check it out.

Additional Information:

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Dax Shepard
Directed By: David Dobkin
Written By: Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish, French DD 5.1
Studio: Warner
Rated: R
Runtime: 141 Minutes
Own “THE JUDGE” on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and Digital HD on January 27th 2015

Buy The Judge On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Watch It

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