Tag Archives: Robert Duvall

Judge Dread


The Judge

by George Wolf


Yes, the timing is perfect for a film that salutes the blind equality shown to all citizens tried in every American courtroom. By all means, serve up an unflinchingly sympathetic portrait of an officer of that court who may have killed someone.

And sure, let’s just go ahead and include some convenience store security footage as part of that officer’s defense!

Good Lord, The Judge, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

The film does one sensible thing, though, in pairing up two great actors. Robert Downey, Jr. is Hank, a big time lawyer in Chicago who returns to his small Indiana hometown to attend his mother’s funeral. Robert Duvall plays Hank’s father Joe, the longtime Judge in town who’s held in high esteem by everyone..except Hank.

Father and son have a serious beef, but when Joe is accused of vehicular manslaughter, Hank stays in town to try and make sure Dad doesn’t spend his last years in the state pen.

What are the odds that the hot shot son learns some important lessons about family, while reconnectIng with the gal he left behind (Vera Farmiga) and finally appreciating the small town ways he once ran from? Pretty high. The script is full of grand speeches that amount to telling the “me” generation how their parents still know better, with two Ronald Reagan shout outs in case you miss one.

Sure, Downey and Duvall have some moments, because they could have moments just reading the menu at Chipotle. But even they had to know this entire project reeks of shameless Oscar bait, as director David Dobkin keeps the manipulated sentiment cranking and frames the two leads with plenty of low-angle shots and angelic backlighting.

Depending on which trailer you see, The Judge may seem like a comedy, a thriller, or a heartwarming drama. It’s a film that really, really wants you to like it.

Guilty of pandering! Adjourned!




For Your Queue: Who doesn’t love Bill Murray?

Another less than stellar week in DVD releases. The strongest contender this week is Hyde Park on Hudson.

A Bill Murray presidency would be gleefully weird, wouldn’t it? Maybe that’s why he landed the role of Franklin Roosevelt in the charming if scattered tale of King and Queen of England’s visit to FDR’s weekend home. When director Roger Mitchell’s film is hitting on all cylinders, it offers glimpses of bold yet delicate nuttiness. The film splits its focus, unfortunately. While the time spent on a love story with cousin Daisy (Laura Linney) grows tiresome, every moment spent with the president and his royal visitors is a gas.


One of the reasons Murray has become such a beloved figure is his willingness to break convention. Yes, it has led to some disappointments (Garfield, Passion Play), but it has given him a well-rounded film resume filled with overlooked performances worth seeking out. One of these is his fine supporting turn in 2009’s Get Low.  In 1930s Tennessee, a small-town hermit (Robert Duvall) decides to have his funeral before he dies, and thus recruits the local funeral director (Murray) to help him “get low.” Duvall is superb in the lead, and Murray crafts a unique character in his limited screen time.