Taglines: 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.
The Judge is an American drama film directed by David Dobkin. The film stars Robert Downey, Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Dax Shepard, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Lancaster, 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 but criticized the formulaic nature of its script and the lack of development for its supporting characters.
Hank Palmer is one of the best defense attorneys in Chicago. In the courtroom, Hank gets a phone call from his brother telling him that their mother died. Hank requests that the trial be suspended until he can return. While packing at home, Hank’s wife tries to console him, but he rebuffs her and reveals he’s aware of her recent infidelity and her attempts to find a divorce lawyer.
He leaves for Carlinville, Indiana for his mother’s funeral. Hank pays his respects at the funeral home viewing, where he meets with his brothers Dale and Glen. Hank then goes to watch his dad, Judge Joseph Palmer, in the courtroom. At the end of the case, Judge Palmer struggles to remember Bailiff Gus’ name. The next morning, the Palmers leave to get breakfast without telling Hank. After showing up late, Hank sees that his high school girlfriend, Samantha, works at the diner.
At the funeral, Joseph is warm and friendly to everyone except Hank, who takes offense that he isn’t more welcome. That night, the Palmer boys go to a local bar, while Joseph goes to the convenience store. At the bar, a group of local rednecks antagonize Glen and Dale. Before Glen engages them in a fight, Hank steps in and uses his confident charisma and knowledge of legal repercussions to dissuade the rednecks of any violence. Carla the bartender, impressed with Hank’s suave nature, makes out with him in the bar’s phone booth by the end of the night.
The next morning, the Hank notices damage to his father’s car and while Joseph suspects his sons or grandsons, Hank and Dale swear that Joseph was the only one to use the car. The police show up to question Joseph about his whereabouts the night before, because there’s been a deadly hit and run. As a defense attorney, Hank urges his father not to speak willingly with the police, but Joseph has faith in the system and his own innocence and is happy to comply with the sheriff’s requests.
Joseph goes in for questioning, and Hank accompanies him. They are told a man named Mark Blackwell was run off the road while riding a bike and that both Joseph and Blackwell were seen at the convenience store the night before. It’s revealed that twenty years prior, as a young man, Blackwell shot out his girlfriend’s windows in a rage. When brought to trial, Joseph treated him with leniency after believing his excuses that he was simply young, drunk and stupid and sentenced him to thirty days in prison, after which Blackwell promptly kidnapped his ex-girlfriend and drowned her as retribution.
Blackwell is sentenced to twenty years for his crimes (the harshest sentence Joseph could impose) and his story is considered to be Joseph’s biggest failure as a Judge. Finding this to be sufficient motive for Joseph to run Blackwell off the road, an investigation is formally opened. Hank finds out Dwight Dickham is going to be handling the prosecution. Dickham has a ruthless reputation, and Hank sticks around to help despite Joseph’s protestations that he does not want Hank for his defense.
While investigating for the upcoming trial, Hank rides his old bike along the same road that Blackwell was hit on, when he hits a rock and is thrown over the handlebars. Samantha happens upon him while he’s on the ground and gives him a ride back to town, introducing him to her daughter, who is revealed to be Carla, the bar-tender that Hank had kissed a few nights prior. Hank and Carla share nervous glances but don’t let on their past history to Samantha.
A security tape from the convenience store shows that Joseph lied about his trip home, and his timeline doesn’t match up. Hank asks Dale about their father’s medical condition and Dale says that he’s fine and that he simply plays chess with Doc Morris every week. As Joseph hates chess and doctors Hank is tipped off to a potential problem, when confronted Joseph reveals he has been receiving chemotherapy for colon cancer, which was caught too late to be effectively treatable. Side effects of the chemo include memory loss which Hank believes could provide a legal defense for Joseph’s actions. Joseph refuses to have his cancer brought up, believing that any doubt in his mental state will undermine all of his recent judgments and legacy overall.
Hank’s daughter comes to Indiana to visit for the weekend. Hank warns her that his father is mean and she shouldn’t take it personally but to Hank’s surprise, his dad is delightful to Lauren. That night, Hank and Lauren hang out and hear a noise, Hank checks and finds that his dad has fallen down, is getting sick, and soils himself as Hank tries to help. Hank takes him into the bathtub and helps clean him with the shower head.
Directed by: David Dobkin
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Leighton Meester, Billy Bob Thornton, Sarah Lancaster
Screenplay by: Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque
Production Design by: Mark Ricker
Cinematography by: Janusz Kaminski
Film Editing by: Mark Livolsi
Costume Design by: Marlene Stewart
Set Decoration by: Rena DeAngelo
Music by: Rena DeAngelo
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: October 10, 2014