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Saturday 16 December 2017

The verdict's in: this is a drama you need to rent

Drama

If you took word of mouth at face value, you'd steer well clear of The Judge.

The critics were harsh, at best lukewarm, about the drama which sees a hotshot laywer (Robert Downey Jr), defending his dad, a veteran smalltown judge (Robert Duvall), on a murder charge.

But this drama, while not in the ranks of a classic, is darned good entertainment - a sort of Doc Hollywood meets Boston Legal.

And this isn't some heartwarming drama - this is a family with issues.

Downey is Hank Palmer, a fast-talking Chicago lawyer (think Iron Man Tony Stark in a suit) who's back to the two-horse town he deserted for the funeral of the mother he cherished.

Dad is a different matter: the two don't see eye to eye, and Hank's brothers Glen (Vincent D'Onforio) and Dale (Jeremy Strong) are caught in the firing line.

But family differences are put aside, kind of, when dad Joseph - a respected local judge, but former heavy boozer - is on the wrong side of the law, accused of mowing down a man he hates and who he once sentenced to a lengthy spell in jail.

There's also a sideplot as Hank, whose wife has cheated on him, once again falls for the charms of childhood sweetheart Sam (Vera Farmiga), and the Indiana town he so hates begins to finally grow on him.

If you're expecting Hank to easily keep his dad out of jail, beat slimy prosecutor Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton), find true love, and patch up all the family differences, think again.

Where the plot takes us is shocking for a movie you expect to be all sweetness.

Downey Jr could play this character in his sleep, so close it is to Tony Stark.

He's annoying, he's eccentric, but he's utterly brilliant at what he does - even without a superhero suit.

But there's genuine chemisty with Duvall, who brilliantly plays the hometown hero with his own dark side.

Recommended.

DVD extras: Not a whole lot, except a making-of featurette, focus on the actors and director's commentary.

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