So I suppose when you earn shedloads of cash for a major studio as Iron Man, you get to create whichever vanity project you like. And for Robert Downey Junior, it's this polished but ultimately overlong and unexciting thriller, THE JUDGE. The self-consciously quality product start RDJ as a flash lawyer in a mid-life crisis who returns to his home town, where his cranky dad, the titular judge, is suspected for a hit-and-run murder. Naturally, the super-smart son, John Grisham-like in his smarmy brilliance, reconnects with his estranged father through the medium of sun-dappled flashbacks with trite piano music. There are two points when I thought the movie would pick up its pace and intensity. The first is when Grace Zabriskie, famous to Lynch fans as the hysterical mother of Laura Palmer, turns up as the enraged mother of the victim. At the point, the movie had the chance to do something new and off the charts, but no. The second point was when Billy Bob Thornton turned up as the prosecutor. But not this was just high polish high profile stunt casting, and BBT just phoned his performance in. So here's where the movie jumps the shark. About an hour in, the mid-life crisis lawyer meets his old flame, the wonderful Vera Farming, and she turns out to be the mum of the teenage waitress (Leighton Meester) he just banged. It's not just that this is a cheesy and skeezy plot line but that it shows a complete lack of directorial judgment on the part of David Dobkin (THE WEDDING CRASHERS). Why try so hard to make a sleek, serious courtroom drama and then just kill its tone with a cheap and awkward gag? The only ONLY time I've ever seen a successful and funny courtroom drama was MY COUSIN VINNY and this ain't that.
THE JUDGE has a running time of 141 minutes and is rated R. The film is on global release.