Starring in two movies that grossed more than a billion dollars at the box office within the space of a single year has put actor Robert Downey Jr.'s career in a pretty good place, which allows him to pursue smaller (but more Academy Award-friendly) material like David Dobkin's upcoming courtroom drama The Judge. Downey Jr. plays Hank Palmer, an unscrupulous big city lawyer who is called back to his home town when his father (played by Robert Duvall) is accused of murder, and needs someone to defend him in court.
Complicating matters is the fact that Hank has a lifetime of daddy issues driving a wedge between himself and his father. After a tough upbringing (well, tough in a very middle-class sense of the word), Hank grew apart from his father in adulthood and in return received contempt for his own approach to dealing with the law. Duvall's character, meanwhile, is a straight-laced former judge whose stubbornness just might land him in jail.
A new international trailer for The Judge has now landed, and if you can get past its painfully obvious Oscar bait nature it's possible to discern what looks like a solid drama about a troubled father-son relationship. Following The Judge's premiere at Toronto International Film Festival this week, however, the early reviews haven't exactly been favorable.
The Judge is the first serious drama film from Dobin, whose previous directorial efforts include The Wedding Crashers and Fred Claus, and the critical consensus so far seems to be that Dobkin would be better off sticking to comedy. Hitfix describes it as "risible Hollywood dreck," adding that "Dobkin demonstrates no grace or economy as a storyteller. He just ladles on every cheap trick he can." The Telegraph's review was scarcely more kind, calling The Judge "first-degree, low-grade schlock."
The Judge was scripted by Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque, and also stars Vincent D'Onofrio, Billy Bob Thornton and Vera Farmiga. With such a great cast it's a shame that The Judge has had such a lukewarm response, but don't let the reviews put you off from checking it out for yourself.
The Judge is out in theaters on October 10, 2014.