Watching this fine, outstanding film one word kept galloping through my mind; every scene, each performance; pristine, prescient directing was laden with “integrity”; two hours of blatant honesty, infused with genealogical, unresolved issues; personal and professional trials, patterns of pain, anchored in years of obfuscation, segregation. The audience voyeuristically watches as the Palmer family flays the past, confronting the present, intimidated, fearing the future.
Robert Duvall as the ageing “Judge” “Joseph Palmer”, is captivating, magnificent as a righteous upholder of the office he’s held for forty-two years; every fiber of his being is lined with respectability, decorum; his legacy informs his taxing, life-altering decisions. He is visibly shaken by catastrophic events but refuses to deny his culpability; flawed but still worthy of emulation.
Robert Downey, Jr. is “Henry “Hank” Palmer”, the middle of Joe’s three sons; brilliant Chicago attorney, defender of the untoward, gives a performance of profound depth (in league with “Chaplin”); the wounds and wrongs of his youth shroud his familial relationships; cutting barbs, quick witticisms mask a vulnerable man yearning for paternal approbation; without sensationalism Downey’s portrayal is cloaked in greatness.
Supporting roles by Vincent D’Onofrio (the eldest son “Glen Palmer”); Jeremy Strong (mentally -challenged youngest son “Dale Palmer”); Billy Bob Thornton, (prosecuting attorney, “Dwight Dickham”) and Vera Farmiga, “Samantha” (Hank’s high-school girlfriend) infuse legitimacy, stunning competency to the film.
Director David Dobkin captures the core of integrity in “The Judge” all that transpires, every word/gesture, transition are in immaculate alignment; gifting viewers a film reminiscent of “times gone by”.