The Judge (2014 film)
|Directed by||David Dobkin|
|Music by||Thomas Newman|
|Edited by||Mark Livolsi|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$84.4 million|
The Judge is a 2014 American legal 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 Duvall and Downey as well as Thomas Newman's score while criticizing 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 attorney in Chicago. When Hank receives news his mother has just died, the judge grants his case a continuance. Before returning to his hometown of Carlinville, Indiana to attend the funeral, Hank argues with his neglected, unfaithful wife, Lisa, whom he is divorcing.
In Carlinville, Hank reunites with his older brother, Glen (Vincent D'Onofrio), a tire shop owner, and his autistic younger brother Dale (Jeremy Strong). Hank's estranged father is Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall) of Carlinville's criminal court. It's revealed that the two have been estranged due to the Judge's harsh treatment of his son in light of his youthful indiscretions, including a car accident when Hank was seventeen that had ruined Glen's future MLB career and resulted in his father sending Hank to juvenile detention rather than the recommended community service or otherwise helping his son.
From the courtroom gallery, Hank discreetly watches his father presiding a case. During the proceedings, the Judge seems momentarily confused when he is unable to recall his long-time bailiff's name. The morning after the funeral, Hank notices the Judge's Cadillac has the right-front headlight and fender damaged and accuses his father, a recovered alcoholic, of driving intoxicated. The Judge reacts defensively, having no memory of an accident. Hank's strained family relationship is further complicated by his former girlfriend, Samantha Powell. He comes to believe her college-student daughter, that he had earlier flirted with, may be his child, though it is later learned his married brother, Glen, is the father.
The next day, after arguing with his father, Hank vows never to return to Carlinville and leaves for the airport. Just before Hank's flight takes off, Glen calls to say the Judge is a suspect in a fatal hit and run accident. The victim, Mark Blackwell (Mark Kiely), is a recently released ex-convict whom Judge Palmer had sentenced to twenty years in prison for a murder that he had committed after the Judge had earlier given Blackwell a light sentence for shooting the victim's house up.
Judge Palmer is indicted after police forensics confirm Blackwell's blood is on the Judge's Cadillac. Judge Palmer is charged with second-degree murder. C.P. Kennedy (Dax Shepard) is hired as the Judge's defense attorney. When his defense proves ineffective, Hank takes over as lead counsel. While preparing for trial, Hank learns the Judge is undergoing chemotherapy for terminal cancer. The Judge's inability to remember the accident or previously recall his bailiff's name may be a side effect of chemotherapy. During this time, Hank's daughter, Lauren, arrives for a short visit, meeting her grandfather for the first time and bonding with him.
At the trial, Judge Palmer, honor-bound to his ethical responsibility, insists on testifying. He scuttles his own defense by testifying he is unable to remember the accident, but believes he may have intentionally killed Blackwell. Hank pushes the Judge until he reveals that he had previously given Blackwell a lighter sentence, the biggest mistake of his career, because Blackwell's circumstances had reminded the Judge of Hank and he'd seen the troubled son that the Judge had refused to help in the young man. Judge Palmer is convicted on a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to four years in the Indiana State Prison.
Seven months later, Hank returns to Carlinville. The Judge has been granted a compassionate release, allowing him to die at home. Fishing on a lake, Hank and the Judge appear to have buried their mutual animosity. After praising Hank as a lawyer, the Judge suddenly and peacefully dies in the boat. The courthouse flag flies at half-staff to honor Judge Joseph Palmer. Hank visits the courthouse and spins the Judge's chair; it stops, facing him, implying a future course.
- Robert Downey Jr. as Henry "Hank" Palmer, the Chicago lawyer
- Robert Duvall as Judge Joseph Palmer, the judge, Hank's father
- Vera Farmiga as Samantha "Sam" Powell, Hank's ex-girlfriend
- Vincent D'Onofrio as Glen Palmer, Hank's older brother
- Jeremy Strong as Dale Palmer, Hank's younger brother
- Billy Bob Thornton as Dwight Dickham, the Prosecutor
- Sarah Lancaster as Lisa Palmer, Hank's wife
- David Krumholtz as Mike Kattan
- Emma Tremblay as Lauren Palmer
- Ken Howard as Judge Sanford Warren
- Leighton Meester as Carla Powell, Samantha's illegitimate daughter
- Dax Shepard as Attorney C.P. Kennedy
- Denis O'Hare as Doc Morris
- Frank L. Ridley as Jury Foreman
- Mark Kiely as Mark Blackwell
- Grace Zabriskie as Mark Blackwell's mother
- Jeremy Holm as Redneck
The script was originally written by Nick Schenk. In March 2011, the script was to be rewritten by David Seidler. In April 2013, Bill Dubuque was enlisted to rewrite it. The casting of Robert Duvall, Vincent D'Onofrio, Vera Farmiga, and Dax Shepard was reported in March 2013. The studios had expressed an interest in Jack Nicholson playing Joseph, but Nicholson turned down the role and it was given to Duvall. Meester joined the cast in April 2013.
Principal photography started on May 31, 2013 in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Shooting also took place in Attleboro, Belmont, Dedham, Sunderland, and Waltham, Massachusetts. Scenes also were filmed in Pennsylvania and Worcester Regional Airport and the city of Worcester itself. The film is set in the fictional town of Carlinville, Indiana.
On February 27, 2014, Thomas Newman was hired to compose the music for the film. WaterTower Music released a soundtrack album on October 7, 2014. The film's closing titles feature Willie Nelson's version of the Coldplay song "The Scientist", and Bon Iver's song "Holocene" is also featured prominently in the film.
The film was shown at the opening night of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 4, 2014. It was premiered in Los Angeles on October 1, 2014 at the Beverly Hills' Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The film was released on October 10, 2014 in the United States.
The Judge grossed $47.1 million in North America and $37.3 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $84.4 million, against a budget of $50 million.
In North America, the film grossed $13.1 million in its opening weekend from 3,003 theaters (a per theater average of $4,368), finishing 5th at the box office. 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.
The Judge received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregator website, gave the film a rating of 49%, based on 198 reviews, with an average rating of 5.59/10. The site's consensus reads: "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." Metacritic gave the film a score of 48 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.
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." 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." 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."
|Year||Award / Film Festival||Category||Recipient(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|
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