|The Frankfurt-Tipp rating:|
|Original title:||The Judge|
|Production country:||USA 2014|
|Running time:||Approx. 144 min.|
|Rated:||From 6 years|
Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is one of Chicago's most successful lawyers. He doesn't care that his clients are all guilty. After all, innocent people wouldn't be able to afford his services anyway. But success comes at a price. Hank's marriage is on the brink of breaking up, which could cause the already very fragile relationship with his daughter to break up for good. And Hank has also been out of touch with his family for a long time. When he learns in the middle of an important trial that his mother has died, Hank must reluctantly return to his small hometown. But it's supposed to be a brief flying visit, as he doesn't want to spend any more time than necessary with his father (Robert Duvall), the town's respected judge. But just as he's getting back on the plane to head back to Chicago after the funeral, a call from his brother (Vincent D`Onofrio) holds him back: his father has been arrested for allegedly causing an accident that killed a man the judge once put in jail. Of course, the old man is far too proud to ask Hank for his help. But when suspicions grow that it was not an accident but premeditated murder, father and son must put aside their differences to save the judge from having to spend the rest of his life in prison. But the dedicated prosecutor (Billy Bob Thornton) seems to have all the cards on his side, and the air grows thinner for Hank and his father.
Director Dave Dobkin, known for more humorous fare such as The Wedding Crashers and How Changed, ventures into more dramatic material for the first time with The Judge - Law or Honor. The mixture of courtroom film and father-son drama is interspersed with lighter moments and amusing dialogues. But the overall tone of the film is rather serious, as the story also deals with themes such as death, Alzheimer's and revenge. Dobikn's attempt to lighten things up a bit every now and then and then stretch it out with a pinch of romance and an extended family story doesn't always work, though. Especially the subplot about Hank's little daughter is a bit too thick in terms of kitsch.
It is thanks to the first-class actors and the good dialogues of the script that the film offers very good entertainment despite its obvious weak points. The focus, of course, is on Robert Downey Jr. who, on the surface, is once again just playing a variation of the same character over and over again. He's just doing what he does best, and he's also always fun to watch. The opening sequence, in which Hank talks the opposing party's lawyer into the ground in the courtroom, is the perfect example of this. But a closer look reveals many different facets of the Iron Man star's skills here, which he presents in a pleasantly understated and well-nuanced manner.
While resisting the temptation to completely upstage his co-stars. As a result, the scenes between Hank and his father in particular offer quite great acting cinema. But also the smaller supporting roles are cast with actors like Billy Bob Thornton, Vera Farmiga or Vincent D`Onofrio really excellent. Not to be left unmentioned is Leighton Meester, known from the series Gossip Girl. Her role is only very small, but during a common car ride with Hank and his ex Samantha (Vera Farmiga) Meester really steals the show with her flirtatious play. Quite a wonderful scene.
Admittedly, The Judge - Right or Honor ultimately suffers from Dobkin trying to tell too many stories at once here. There are a few scenes that you think will still have some meaning, but then fall flat. Therefore, almost two and a half hours of running time wouldn't really have been necessary. Dobkin would have done well to limit himself to the essentials here and to opt for a somewhat tighter narrative pace. Nevertheless, the lengths are kept within tolerable limits and despite some dramaturgical weaknesses, the film offers very good entertainment overall. If you like it a bit worn and love very classic court and family dramas with a pleasant pinch of humor, you'll get your money's worth here. Therefore applies then also: Worth seeing!
An article by Frankfurt-Tipp