Courtroom drama for dysfunctional family

PA Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures
PA Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures

The law is an ass and the people who administer it bigger asses in David Dobkin’s courtroom drama about a family reunited by a murder trial.

The Judge takes its sweet time going through the legal motions, grafting on a superfluous romantic subplot to the revelations in the dock.

Thankfully, lead actors Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall sink their teeth into their broadly sketched characters and energise the dysfunctional father-son relationship that provides the film with its conflict and heart-tugging emotion.

The lead role of a smarmy big city lawyer, who proudly proclaims, “Innocent people can’t afford me”, is a snug fit for Downey Jr.

During a trial, Hank learns that his mother has passed away. He ventures back to his hometown and tentatively rebuilds bridges with his two brothers and father Joseph (Robert Duvall), the community’s venerable judge of 42 years.

As Hank prepares to fly back to Chicago, Joseph is arrested for killing a scoundrel who passed through his court.

Special prosecutor Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton) is drafted in to secure a conviction and Joseph chooses local defender CP Kennedy (Dax Shepard) rather than his son to represent him.