What happens when you put two larger than life actors, Robert Duvall and Robert Downey, Jr, with one Oscar and six nominations between them, in the same film? Contrary to the laws of nature you get a story of two strong characters with flaws played by two extremely talented actors, who allow the story to unfold and the audience to enjoy their genuis and well honed craft.
The Judge takes place in Indiana, the heartland, the corn belt of the country where everyday Americans live and go about life in a normal (whatever that is any more) way. Duvall plays The Judge (as he is referred to) who has been on the town's bench for 42 years. Downey plays his son, Hank, a hard nose defense attorney in Chicago who takes no prisoners; who felons want on their side (if they can afford him) so they will not be one.
The film opens with The Judge's wife, Hank's mother, dying and the family coming together for the funeral. It is clear in the first 15 minutes that not only has Hank not been home in a while, it isn't something he has consciously missed. Driving through the cornfields as he makes his way back to his hometown is almost like crossing the great divide from his life in Chicago with his successful practice and marriage that has fallen to pieces and his estranged past he has spent years running from. The one thing that does connect all the pieces are his young daughter, whom he adores and seems to keep him grounded. (We all need the innocence and unfiltered truth of a child to keep us on the right path.)
No spoiler here, if you have seen the trailers, the story involves Hank's relationship with his father, which is acrimonious at best, his brothers, and his past. He ends up defending his father in a murder trial. I'll stop there. The 141 minutes made me pause before choosing this film but it could not have been done is less time and the story never lagged. (There was not a scene I thought they could have scrapped in the essence of time.)
IMDB gave it a rating 7.8 out of 10. I would give it a good 9 out of 10. The casting is outstanding, the story is strong, the screenplay is well written, and the story is not predictable.