Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Judge review: Mostly good, but a bit too close to home.

This review was first posted on Geek Crusade . Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars. I have strongly mixed feelings about this. In essence, it’s a mov...

This review was first posted on Geek Crusade.

Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars. I have strongly mixed feelings about this. In essence, it’s a movie that Focus on the Family might approve of – a family-centric show sprinkled with just the right amount of moral values and life lessons. There’s no graphic violence either: everything is implied. And, an honourable judge of 42 years who potentially could have killed someone but can’t remember due to chemotherapy treatment, puts himself into jail because it’s only right. Classically Singaporean.
Starring the great Iron Man Robert Downey Jr as Hank Palmer and the legendary Robert Duvall as his father Judge Palmer, The Judge is a somewhat heart-warming tale of the prodigal son. Palmer, a highly successful big city lawyer who wins cases for his criminal clients returns to his small town home to attend his mother’s funeral.

There, his father, a distinguished judge who runs his courtroom in a strict and righteous fashion, becomes involved in a hit-and-run accident which he may or may not be guilty of. We can’t be sure because the judge’s brain is affected by the chemotherapy he’s undergoing to battle his stage 4 cancer.

The younger Palmer ends up representing his father in court, where he (SPOILER ALERT – though there is more to the story than this) eventually loses because his morally upright father felt serving jail time was the right thing to do.
RDJ was beginning to feel just a bit too safe in the movie. ©Warner Bros

The Judge is a very good movie, with a brilliant script, cast and acting. Seriously, the similarities that the father-son duo portrayed in terms of appearance and eccentricities were uncanny. The way they talked, shouted and paced around was eerily similar. It was hard to imagine that Robert Downey Jr could have been raised by anyone aside from Robert Duvall.

So the acting was good, the storyline was good, why 3 out of 5 stars instead of 5? Well, here’s the thing about it: it’s too Singaporean. In other words, it’s very safe. Let’s break it down.

There’s an estranged son, who makes it big but later returns to his hometown, reconnects with his family, and eventually reconciles his differences with his father. There’s the venerable judge, who chooses to go to jail not because he committed a crime, but because he feels it would be unfair to the community if he went free.
“No dad, I don’t actually have a suit of armour.” ©Warner Bros

There’s the father dealing with the problems of old age (aka cancer, memory loss and bowel control – Hello CHAS and Pioneer Generation Package!), and there’s his filial son who cares and looks after him.

There’s even the appearance of an autistic Dale Palmer, one of Hank’s brothers who managed to lead a normal life and cultivate a passion for photography. Not to mention the intentional casting of the bailiff in primarily white Indianapolis, as Lonnie Farmer, a Black dude.

There’s cursing, some making out, and some literal toilet humour.
But that’s really about as graphic as it gets. It’s easy to picture Channel 8 putting out something like that. Granted, it would be split into 100 episodes and screened over a period of five years, but you get the idea.

So I get the appeal of The Judge. Really, it’s awesome and I can see why people will put it down as one of the must-watch shows of the year. But you know, it’s Hollywood and I guess I was hoping for something more, well, American.

The movie opens in Singapore on Oct 16. Let us know your thoughts on our The Judge review!

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