The Judge

 

What is said to be the first rule of advocacy is that if you have good point, make it, and don’t spoil it with a dud point – or just bury it. It is good advice for any writer and any film-maker. One problem with The Judge is that there are too many currants in the bun, and that is one reason that it is far too long, at two hours twenty minutes. It is a father and son story that is full of improbability and schmalz, and as a trial story it is almost wildly loose – and we could have done without the leering, Satanic a prosecutor with a hang-up. But I enjoyed the film, a lot. A trial film cannot be all bad if it makes a ritual out of a young attorney throwing up each morning before court, and then gives us a commentary on the etiquette of throwing up. The hero – and he is there to undergo a rite of return – is a country boy made good – after a fashion. He is a glib smart-arse who gives the law a bad name. He goes back home to bury his mother and ends confronting himself, his past and his family when he acts for his father, the long-time judge of the town, on a murder charge. The hero is played by Robert Downey Junior who has real screen presence. Downey is impressive in that he impresses his role on you. His father is played by Robert Duvall at a stage in his career where you are going bad if you are not moved. Downey does hold your and the camera’s attention – he reminded me a lot of Dirk Bogarde. Duvall is a seriously good actor and he ends up wearing my version of a Stetson hat. Some of the schmalz is over the top, but two women have very good sexy parts, and I thought that the film used very fine actors to make enough contact with the facts of life to keep me well entertained and thinking about it fondly for the thirty minute drive home through the bush. Daylesford is a town on a lake and would be about the size of the town where this film was shot, but I do not think that it sports a diner with women behind the bar quite as sexy as those in the film. The cinema is however run on the free list as a community project and we should encourage it.

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