The Judge is an excellent film starring Robert Duval and Robert Downey Jr. as father and son. Robert Duval is Joseph Palmer, a very stern judge in a small Indiana town. Robert Downey Jr. is his son Hank, who works in Chicago as a highly paid defense attorney who is best known for getting guilty people off through legal trickery. The two do not get along and have not seen or spoken to each other for years.
Hank returns to Indiana for his mother’s funeral and is soon caught up in the toughest legal case of his career. Judge Palmer is accused of killing a defendant who had appeared before the judge years before. Judge Palmer had given the man a light sentence and then the man went out and committed a brutal murder. The Judge always considered that the worst mistake in his career.
On a rainy night Judge Palmer is driving and hits and kills a man riding a bicycle. At first it seems like just a tragic accident. However it turns out that the man killed was the same man the Judge had freed many years before. Judge Palmer is accused of premeditated murder and Hank is the lawyer who will defend him.
The characters in this film are all excellent. None of them are portrayed as stereotypes. As the movie progresses it delves more into the complex nature of the relationship between the Judge and Hank.
The film also has a full cast of excellent supporting characters played by by fine actors. Vera Farmiga is Samantha; the girlfriend Hank left abruptly when she moved away years before. She is now a successful business owner and is not quite sure how she feels about Hank being back in town.
The prosecutor is played by Billy Bob Thornton, who wants to make sure justice is served and that an arrogant Chicago lawyer does not keep a murderer from going to jail. As the case continues Hank realizes that his Chicago tricks are not going to work here. He is going to have to use the truth of what actually happened on that rainy night. But what is the truth? What is his father not telling him?
This is one of the best films of the year.
We give it Five Stars *****