Wedneday, March 11, 2014 at 2 pm – Free
The Judge is a near-perfect movie—provocatively written, intensely mounted, painstakingly photographed, passionately acted and profoundly thoughtful. Equal parts courtroom drama and family saga, it’s also a showcase for two terrific actors at the top of their craft. Looking healthier and handsomer than ever, Robert Downey Jr. plays Hank Palmer, an arrogant, cynical Chicago defense attorney who returns home to a small town in Indiana for his mother’s funeral. Hank stays just long enough to rekindle old conflicts with his estranged father (Robert Duvall), an irascible local judge and pillar of the community whose implacable values and judgmental dynamics have kept his three sons divided and in turmoil for years. Hank is about to fly home when a shocking crisis erupts. His father is accused of the hit-and-run killing of a man he once sentenced to prison. Under the circumstances, Hank is forced to take over the job of defense attorney in the resulting murder trial—an awkward position that pits him against a crafty out-of-town prosecutor played by Billy Bob Thornton. It’s a tough case that uncovers damning evidence, and Hank’s father is no help at all.
Sensitively directed by David Dobkin, the screenplay by Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque is intelligent, touching and carefully calibrated, eschewing any trace of sentimentality, yet the film envelops your own sense of humanity as father and son draw closer and discover things about each other they never suspected. Beautifully shot by the great Polish cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, it’s Duvall’s greatest performance since he won the Oscar for Tender Mercies, and Downey’s greatest performance ever. The Judge is precisely the kind of movie that people mean when they say, “they don’t make ’em like that anymore.” [Rex Reed]
United States — 2014 — 142 mins.