Stanley Kubrick believed that casting was 80 percent responsible for the failure or success of a film. Put the right actor—not necessarily the best actor—in the right role, and everything has a way of falling into place. The Judge is a father-son courtroom drama featuring a Jaded Lawyer and an Ornery Coot, and it would be difficult to imagine better choices than Robert Downey Jr., who produced the film with his wife, and Robert Duvall.
Downey, in his first real drama since 2009’s The Soloist, “plays the closest thing to a real human being he’s tackled in ages,” writes EW’s critic Chris Nashawaty. “As hotshot Chicago attorney Hank Palmer, Downey is his usual onscreen type—the whip-smart wiseass who’s cynical and selfish… until he’s not.”
Hank is called home for his mother’s funeral, and forced to revisit the scarred relationship he had with his irascible father, an esteemed judge who then finds himself on the wrong end of a murder trial. With his father facing a guilty verdict, Hank insists on leading his legal defense, even as the two men re-fight the battles that have kept them apart for 20 years.
His relationship with the Judge isn’t the only one that Hank has to rebuild. Vera Farmiga plays an old hometown girlfriend that he left behind, and Vincent D’Onofrio and Jeremy Strong play his two brothers.
Read more from EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below. READ FULL STORY