The Judge (2014 film)

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The Judge
The Judge 2014 film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Dobkin
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Nick Schenk
  • David Dobkin
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography Janusz Kamiński
Edited by Mark Livolsi
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • September 4, 2014 (2014-09-04) (TIFF)
  • October 10, 2014 (2014-10-10) (USA)
Running time
142 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $50 million[3]
Box office $83.7 million[3]

The Judge is a 2014 American drama film directed by David Dobkin. The film stars Robert Downey, Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, and Billy Bob Thornton. The film was released in the United States on October 10, 2014. It received mixed reviews; critics praised the performances of Downey and Duvall and Thomas Newman's score, but criticized the formulaic nature of its script and the lack of development for its supporting characters.

Duvall received multiple award nominations for his performance as Judge Joseph Palmer, including the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor. Thomas Newman also received a Satellite Award nomination for Best Original Score.


Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is a successful defense attorney in Chicago who has been estranged from his family in a small town in Indiana for several years. His brother Glen (Vincent D'Onofrio) calls with news that their mother has died. As he leaves to fly to his hometown of Carlinville, it is revealed that Hank is going through a divorce and custody battle for his young daughter. Hank reunites with his brothers: older brother Glen, an owner of a car tire shop, and younger brother Dale (Jeremy Strong), a mentally handicapped man with an obsession for filming, who carries an old 8mm film camera everywhere he goes, as an emotional crutch and security blanket. Hank stops by the county courthouse, quietly enters a courtroom and sits in an unoccupied section in order to secretly observe his father, Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), who is presiding over a case. Hank witnesses his father forgetting the bailiff's name (a bailiff he has served with for many years), and believes that the death of his wife has caused his recovering-alcoholic father to start drinking again.

After his wife's funeral, the Judge excuses himself to go shopping while the brothers catch up with each other. Despite their pleas, the Judge rebuffs their numerous offers to accompany him. After he leaves, the brothers go to a local tavern, where they reminisce about how, when they were children, they used to go fishing at a lakeside cabin with their father. Dale mentions that the Judge, "still goes up there every Wednesday to play chess with Dr. Morris. He loves that place."

The next morning Hank notices damage to his father's Cadillac Coupe DeVille as he is preparing to leave. Upon seeing the damage, the Judge denies knowing how it happened, but the brothers inherently know that because they saw their father driving it the previous night, and since no one is allowed to drive the car but him, their father is the only one who could have caused the damage. Hank believes his father was drinking and driving and damaged his own car. The Judge responds by criticizing Hank's deteriorating marriage. A heated exchange ensures, ending with Hank leaving, promising to never return. While boarding his plane to return home to Chicago, Hank learns that his father is being questioned by police with regard to a fatal hit and run, the victim being someone the judge convicted years earlier.

Hank ends up defending his father and learns he was undergoing chemotherapy, and was not driving drunk. While the prosecutor Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton) is seeking a murder conviction for first degree murder, Hank reconnects with his old girlfriend Sam (Vera Farmiga), whom he abandoned after going to a Metallica concert more than 20 years ago. He discovers that Sam has a daughter, Carla (Leighton Meester), born nine months after he left.

Despite Hank's efforts, the Judge is found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison, but is released on compassionate parole after having served seven months. He and Hank go fishing. After recognizing Hank as the best lawyer he knows, Joseph dies in the boat. Later after the funeral, Hank goes to the courthouse alone, and puts his father's hat on the bench. He spins the seat, and when it stops it faces him, implying that he too will become a judge.




The script was originally written by Nick Schenk. In March 2011, the script was to be rewritten by David Seidler.[4] In April 2013, Bill Dubuque was enlisted to rewrite it.[5] The casting of Robert Duvall, Vincent D'Onofrio,[6] Vera Farmiga,[7] and Dax Shepard was reported in March 2013.[8] The studios had expressed an interest in Jack Nicholson playing the judge, but Nicholson turned down the role and it was given to Duvall.[9][10][11] Meester joined the cast in April 2013.[12]


Principal photography started on May 31, 2013 in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.[13] Shooting also took place in Attleboro, Belmont, Dedham, Sunderland, and Waltham, Massachusetts. Scenes also were filmed in Pennsylvania and Worcester, Massachusetts.[14][15] The film is set in the fictional town of Carlinville, Indiana.[16] Filming was also done at the It's About Time Clock shop, a small business antiques shop in Millers Falls, Massachusetts. It is the actual location of the antique store in the movie.


On February 27, 2014, Thomas Newman was hired to compose the music for the film.[17] WaterTower Music released a soundtrack album on October 7, 2014.[18] The film's closing titles features Willie Nelson's version of the Coldplay song "The Scientist".


The film was shown at the opening night of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 4, 2014.[19] It was premiered in Los Angeles on October 1 at the Beverly Hills' Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[20] The film was released on October 10, 2014 in the United States.[21]

Box office[edit]

The Judge grossed $83.5 million worldwide. The film earned a total of $13,116,226 in North America in its opening weekend, playing in 3,003 theaters for a per theater average of $4,368 and ranking #5. CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, cinema audiences gave The Judge an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.[22] The biggest markets in other territories were Russia, Italy and Mexico, where the film grossed $4.4 million, $2.99 million and $2.84 million, respectively.[23]

Critical response[edit]

The Judge has received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregator website, gave the film a rating of 47%, based on 174 reviews; the average rating was 5.6/10. The site's consensus states, "Solidly cast and beautifully filmed but thoroughly clichéd, The Judge seems destined to preside over a large jurisdiction of the basic cable afternoon-viewing circuit."[24] Metacritic gave the film a score of 48 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[25] Film critic Richard Roeper gave the film a "C" rating, saying that it was "surprising how little we care about these characters."[26]

Geoffrey Macnab of The Independent wrote: "For all its contrivances and occasional lapses into On Golden Pond-style mawkishness, this is a richly crafted yarn that boasts barnstorming, if very showy performances from Duvall and Downey Jr."[27] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave a mixed to positive review, writing: "There are plenty of emotional fireworks in this big, soupy but entertaining picture, which is obvious Oscar bait."[28] Entertainment Weekly critic Chris Nashawaty gave the film a "B" rating, and stated: "I don't expect The Judge to usher in a new era of legal thrillers, but I'm happy to see Downey leave the Marvel universe and Baker Street behind."[29]


List of awards and nominations
Year Award / Film Festival Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result
2014 Hollywood Music in Media Awards Best Original Score – Feature Film Thomas Newman Nominated
Mill Valley Film Festival Best U.S. Feature Film The Judge (David Dobkin) 2nd Place
Heartland Film Festival Truly Moving Picture Won
18th Hollywood Film Awards Supporting Actor of the Year Robert Duvall Won
87th Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Nominated
72nd Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Nominated
21st Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Nominated
20th Critics' Choice Awards Best Supporting Actor Nominated
19th Satellite Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Nominated
Best Original Score Thomas Newman Nominated


  1. ^ "Village Roadshow Pictures cosies up to Sony". May 6, 2014. Retrieved May 11, 2014. 
  2. ^ "THE JUDGE (15)". Warner Bros. British Board of Film Classification. August 22, 2014. Retrieved August 22, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "The Judge (2014)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 31, 2015. 
  4. ^ "WB taps David Seidler for 'The Judge'". Variety. March 23, 2011. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  5. ^ Fleming, Mike (April 4, 2012). "Warner Bros 'The Judge' Collars Scribe Bill Dubuque To Script Robert Downey Jr-Starrer". Deadline. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Vincent D'Onofrio Joins Warner Bros' 'The Judge'". Deadline. March 14, 2013. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  7. ^ Kroll, Justin (March 20, 2013). "Vera Farmiga Sets Sights on 'The Judge'". Variety. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  8. ^ Yamato, Jen (March 20, 2013). "Dax Shepard Joins WB's 'The Judge'". Deadline. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  9. ^ Kit, Borys (November 13, 2012). "Jack Nicholson Courted to Play Robert Downey Jr.'s Father". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  10. ^ Kit, Borys (March 13, 2013). "Robert Duvall Joins Robert Downey Jr. in 'The Judge'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  11. ^ Kroll, Justin (March 15, 2013). "Billy Bob Thornton to Prosecute Robert Duvall in 'The Judge' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  12. ^ Kit, Borys (April 3, 2013). "'Gossip Girl' Star Leighton Meester Joins Robert Downey Jr. in 'The Judge'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 16, 2013. 
  13. ^ Broncaccio, Diane (May 30, 2013). "Shooting for Robert Downey Jr. film 'The Judge' starts Friday in Shelburne Falls". Daily Hampshire Gazette. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  14. ^ Christine (June 6, 2013). "Updated filming locations for 'The Judge', starring Robert Downey Jr., in Shelburne Falls, MA". On Location Vacations. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Robert Downey Jr. and crew from 'The Judge' make stop at Smiarowski Farm Stand in Sunderland". Masslive. June 12, 2013. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  16. ^ Contrada, Fred (June 6, 2011). "Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vincent D'Onofrio in Shelburne Falls as village is transformed into movie set for 'The Judge'". Masslive. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Thomas Newman to Score 'The Judge' and James Brown Biopic 'Get On Up'". Film Music Reporter. February 27, 2014. Retrieved October 31, 2014. 
  18. ^ "'The Judge' Soundtrack Details". Film Music Reporter. September 26, 2014. Retrieved October 31, 2014. 
  19. ^ Pond, Steve (July 25, 2014). "Robert Downey Jr. Drama 'The Judge' to Open Toronto Film Festival". The Wrap. Retrieved July 28, 2014. 
  20. ^ McNary, Dave (October 2, 2014). "Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall Celebrate at 'The Judge' L.A. Premiere". Variety. Retrieved October 2, 2014. 
  21. ^ McClintock, Pamela (July 31, 2013). "Robert Downey Jr.'s 'The Judge' Gets a Fall 2014 Release". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 19, 2013. 
  22. ^ "Box office update: 'Dracula Untold' leads, 'Gone Girl' close No. 2". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  23. ^ "The Judge - International Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  24. ^ "The Judge". Flixster. Retrieved October 30, 2014. 
  25. ^ "The Judge Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 14, 2014. 
  26. ^ "The Judge (2014)". Richard Roeper & The Movies. Retrieved October 27, 2014. 
  27. ^ "The Judge, film review: Hot-shot actors Duvall and Downey Jr make a compelling case". The Independent. October 16, 2014. 
  28. ^ "The Judge review – part family drama, part courtroom gripper". The Guardian. October 16, 2014. 
  29. ^ "Movies - The Judge". Entertainment Weekly. October 16, 2014. 

External links[edit]