If the Marvel movies are great at one thing, it’s casting. So much so that sometimes its hard to imagine their actors ever weren’t Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor and the myriad players to take the screen since. Maybe they always were and the universe just didn’t know it yet. So, with Avengers: Endgame a day away, let’s take a look at another work of the Godfather of the MCU himself, Mr. Robert Downey Jr, in 2014’s The Judge.
Man, I really had to convince myself not to go back to the well of RDJ movies I’ve seen and loved. Because it’s been so long since I’ve watched Heart and Souls, Home for the Holidays and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Hell, I even remember really kind of liking the creepily incestuous reincarnation rom-com Chances Are (“creepily incestuous reincarnation rom-com” all seem like words that should never go together). And yet, I told myself I was only going to do movies I’d never seen for Covert Avengers, and I really wanted to stick to that. So, I narrowed it down The Judge and Chaplin, and The Judge was the easier get.
Then it sat on top of my Blu ray player for a week while I did other things (including losing my Blu ray remote). And now I’m really sorry I waited, because it was so good.
Downey plays Hank Palmer, a big-time Chicago defense attorney who, after his mother’s death, goes home to Indiana and a strained relationship with his father, Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall). Before he can get in and get back out, the judge is involved in a fatal hit and run that turns into a murder trial when the victim turns out to be a man he once went easy on who then went on to kill someone.
This movie has everything and balances it all so well. It’s strong as a legal drama, but its real heart lies in the family drama of it all. Because Hank and Joseph are BRO-KEN. Broken, but underneath all the animosity and estrangement there’s still a caring that can’t help but bubble to the surface from time to time as they work together through their issues, the case and Joseph’s health. Vincent D’Onofrio and Jeremy Strong round out the Palmer family as Hank’s brothers and it is so refreshing that they all get along. They add some levity to what could otherwise have become a melodramatic angst-fest.
Not that there’s not plenty of melodrama and angst, but they just keep it from going overboard, along with the rest of the town’s characters including Dax Sheppard’s kind of inept but eager attorney and Vera Farmiga as Hank’s high school sweetheart who’s still around town but definitely not a townie.
But, in addition to being a legal drama and a family drama, The Judge also sort of feels a little bit like a coming of age drama. It seems weird to say that, since Hank’s somewhere in his 40s with a kid of his own, but all the chaos surrounding him also drives his own journey as he re-evaluates where his life has taken him and where he wants to go. It sounds cliche, but with so much going on and with such strong performances from everybody it just doesn’t feel that way at all.
The Judge is definitely a movie I’ll be adding to my collection.
Now, with Gifted, Arrival and The Judge, I’m a three for three success story in my Covert Avenger experience, and that seems like a good place to call it this time around. I didn’t get to Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson or Chris Hemsworth, though I did check out Spotlight and Hail Caesar from the library, and I maaaay have just gone ahead and picked up Red Dawn in a buy 2 get 1 deal at the secondhand shop. I’ll definitely watch them at some point, but I might hold off on posting about them and make Covert Avengers a recurring series whenever a new Marvel movie is coming out. We’ll see.
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