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David Dobkin
Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, Billy Bob Thornton
Writing Credits:
Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque

Defend Your Honor.

Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town's judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.

Box Office:
$50 million.
Opening Weekend
$13,116,226 on 3003 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish

Runtime: 141 min.
Price: $35.99
Release Date: 1/27/2015

• Audio Commentary with Director David Dobkin
• “Inside The Judge” Featurette
• “Getting Deep with Dax Shepard” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Previews
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Judge [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 19, 2014)

Back in the early 1990s, a TV series called The Judge offered a twist on the People’s Court motif. It used actors to re-enact trials but a real-life judge would hear them and offer his own verdicts. This was fun mostly due to the poor acting, but I really enjoyed it.

2014’s The Judge has nothing to do with that show.

Instead, The Judge introduces us to Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.), a hotshot Chicago defense lawyer. When he learns that his mother died, he needs to return home to rural Indiana and deal with his long-estranged father, local judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall). Hank does so alone, as he plans to divorce his wife Lisa (Sarah Lancaster) due to her infidelity.

When Hank gets back to his hometown, he finds himself confronted with a lot of relatives he’s not seen in years – and a startling legal development. His father Joseph finds himself accused of murder – and despite their long-standing personal issues, Hank agrees to defend him.

When I first heard of The Judge, I thought it came with the distinct odor of “Oscar-bait”. I won’t say movies like this exist solely to court the Academy voters, as that’s too cynical for even me, but I do think they wear their prize-related aspirations on their sleeves.

The Judge failed to score much Oscar love, as it nabbed only one nomination: Duvall got a nod for Best Supporting Actor. I can’t call this lack of Academy attention a crime, as Judge delivers a sporadically entertaining drama but not a memorable one.

When The Judge focuses on the courtroom, it offers a fairly enjoyable experience. No, it doesn’t do anything inventive or new in that setting, but it offers an involving case and lively dramatics.

Unfortunately, The Judge spends way too much time outside of the courthouse to become a satisfying movie. These other elements tend to be heavy-handed and melodramatic, as the film pursues predictable, trite paths in terms of its characters.

A lot of the material feels unnecessary as well. Do we need all the time with Hank’s high school girlfriend Samantha? No, not really – these elements come across as stale and tedious, and a lot of the other character bits fall into the same category.

Even when Downey and Duvall butt heads, the movie remains less than involving, mainly because of the tired choices made by the script. There’s not a fresh or honest moment to be found in these roles or relationships; they follow wearisome paths that do little other than make us impatient to go back to the courtroom.

Those trial sequences do enough to keep us with The Judge, but the film can be a slow ride nonetheless. At 141 minutes, we find a lot of padding, as all those character bits do little more than make a long flick feel even more extended. The Judge brings us a high-class TV movie, but it’s still a fairly trite piece of work.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

The Judge appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. For the most part, this became a positive presentation.

Sharpness usually looked good. A little softness crept into the image at times, but not frequently, and most of those shots appeared intentional. Otherwise, the movie usually appeared nicely detailed and distinctive. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. Source flaws were a non-factor, as this was a clean presentation.

In terms of colors, the movie went with a stylized palette that varied based on setting and tone. It mostly mixed amber and teal throughout its running time. The hues consistently seemed clear and concise within those parameters. Blacks were deep and firm, and shadows showed good smoothness. Overall, the picture appeared fairly solid.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it worked pretty well for the material. The audio tended to be somewhat restrained most of the time, but some sequences – such as those at bars or on the street – opened up the spectrum in a satisfying manner. Cars and other elements moved around the room, while other effects added a good sense of ambience. A tornado scene offered the most involvement, but even it focused on interiors, so don’t expect The Judge to suddenly turn into Twister.

Audio quality was perfectly acceptable. Speech showed nice clarity and naturalism, and music was reasonably distinctive and dynamic. Effects lacked much to stand out, but they appeared accurate, and they showed mild punch when necessary. All of this seemed good enough for a “B-“.

A mix of extras appear here, and these launch with an audio commentary from director David Dobkin. He presents a running, screen-specific look at the project's origins, story/character/script areas and editing, music, sets and locations, cast and performances, cinematography, and connected domains.

On the negative side, Dobkin often tells us how much he loves everything related to the film; the praise flows fast and furious. Despite that, Dobkin gives us an informative, thoughtful take on the movie. I still don't care for The Judge, but I better understand his choices and what he wanted to do.

Two featurettes follow. Inside The Judge goes for 22 minutes, 16 seconds and provides notes from Dobkin, producer Susan Downey, and actors Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Dax Shepard, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio and Jeremy Strong. We learn about Dobkin’s work on the film, cast and performances, and story/character areas.

“Inside” functions as a kind of “roundtable”, as the cast and crew all sit together. That adds a fun vibe, and we get a pretty good number of insights, especially from the actors. This becomes a better than expected piece.

Getting Deep with Dax Shepard lasts nine minutes, 21 seconds and offers the actor’s facetious interviews with other cast members Downey, D’Onofrio and Billy Bob Thornton. Goofy reels like this can flop, but this one delivers laughs.

11 Deleted Scenes occupy a total of 18 minutes, 28 seconds. These tend toward character moments, though a few focus on the trial. The bits about the criminal case have their moments, but the others tended to be dull.

We can view the scenes with or without commentary from Dobkin. He tells us a bit about the pieces and occasionally lets us know why he cut the sequences. Dobkin offers a smattering of decent observations.

The disc starts with ads for American Sniper and Jupiter Rising. No trailer for Judge appears here.

A second disc presents a DVD copy of The Judge. It includes “Getting Deep” but lacks the other extras.

With a strong cast and a meaty subject, The Judge boasts potential for greatness. However, it tends toward the sappy/sudsy side of the street, choices that leave it as a moderately entertaining courthouse drama but not a consistently satisfying one. The Blu-ray brings us mostly positive picture and audio as well as a fairly good set of supplements. Expect a spotty experience from The Judge.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.4444 Stars Number of Votes: 9
3 3:
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