Film Review “The Judge”

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Robert Duvall
Directed by: David Dobkin
Rated: R
Running time: 2 hours 21 mins
Warner Brothers

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

“The Godfather: Part II,” “Network,” “The Natural,” “Falling Down.” What do these films have in common? They all feature performances by Robert Duvall that amazingly were NOT nominated for an Academy Award. I decided some time ago that, in my opinion, Robert Duvall is the greatest film actor of all time. Don’t believe me? Watch “The Great Santini.” Or “The Apostle,” which Duvall also wrote and directed. Then tell me I’m wrong. Those two films earned him two of his six Oscar nominations and he won the Best Actor Oscar for 1983’s “Tender Mercies.” He should earn his seventh nod shortly thanks to his performance in “The Judge.”

Hank Palmer (Downey, Jr) is the stereotypical “fat cat” lawyer. Big house in the suburbs. Drives a Ferrari. And has no problem defending clients who…well, let’s just say that not always guilt free. When an opposing attorney asks him why he never defends an innocent client, Hank replies that “an innocent man can’t afford me.” When his mother passes away, Hank leaves his high-style Chicago lifestyle for a trip back home to small town Indiana. Back to his family. Back to the Judge.

Flawlessly directed and skillfully acted, “The Judge” joins last week’s “Gone Girl” on this year’s short list of worthy Oscar contenders. With no love lost between them, Judge Joseph Palmer (Duvall) and his middle son are like oil and water. When Judge Palmer is involved in a hit and run accident – it doesn’t help that the man killed had once appeared before the judge and held a grudge – Hank must go to the mat to keep his father out of prison. Whether he’s innocent or not!

Duvall and Downey, Jr. are outstanding. Both men would certainly be recognized come Oscar time if I was in charge. Constantly finding just the right thing to say to twist the imaginary knife just a little more, the two bicker more than an old married couple. But, like that couple, there is also a mutual respect and love that they keep hidden in their emotions. As oldest son, Glen, Vincent D’Onofrio tries to be strong, though he still nurses a distrust of Hank and his efforts. Jeremy Strong plays youngest brother Dale, a young man who never goes anywhere without his Super 8 camera, with a gentle sweetness. Vera Farmiga is strong as a woman from Hank’s past while Billy Bob Thornton oozes with oil as the special prosecutor sent to bring Judge Palmer to trial. There isn’t a false note in the bunch. What is most surprising is the way the film is crafted by director Dobkin. A veteran of such comedies as “Shanghai Knights,” “Wedding Crashers” and “Fred Claus,” this is not a film I would expect from him. Though a tad too long, Dobkin manages to keep the film moving, only revealing something new when the time is right. The pace never drags and Dobkin has delivered a first rate dramatic debut!


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Blu-ray Review “Judge Dredd”

Directed by: Danny Cannon
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Diane Lane, Armand Assante, Jurgen Prochnow, Rob Schneider
MPAA Rating: R
Distributed by: Hollywood Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Running Time: 96 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extra: 2 out of 5 stars

“I am the Law!” – Easily one of the best quotes in any film.  Even better since it is said by Sylvester Stallone, so perfectly.  This film was not a big success as it was deemed too cartoonish for the character of Dredd.  This was also released during the decline in the Stallone’s popularity.  I personally have always been a fan of this film.  It has a lot of problems but overall it is a fun film…yes even though Rob Schneider is in it.  Disney to choosing to re-release this film on Blu-ray now to time it with the release of Lionsgate’s “Dredd 3D”. If you are a fan of this film though, then this is a no-brainer purchase.

Even though this film was a big-budget release, it never really seemed like high quality production.  The 1080p transfer though looks very impressive and definitely one of the best of the recent Disney catalog releases.  The audio track includes a nice DTS-HD MA 5.1. It does its job very well.  It is very loud and delivers a punch like Mr. Dredd himself. There is a lot of action in this film and overall it sounds very impressive. Alan Silvestri’s score also sounds very impressive with the track.

The special features are not as impressive though.  Basically the only feature is a short 20 minutes featurette called “Stallone’s Law: The Making of Judge Dredd”. It techincally is a new feature but not newly produced.  It is a this made-for-TV promotional piece from 1995,though it was not included on 1998 DVD of “Judge Dredd”. Lastly there is the theatrical trailer and opens with a short narration by James Earl Jones.  Overall the extras could have used a little amping up in the content area but Disney still delivered a great release overall.