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Don’t judge until you’ve seen ‘The Judge’

The Judge casts Robert Downey Jr. as Hank Palmer, a high-profile, high-powered Chicago defense attorney. He’s estranged from his family. When his mother dies, Palmer returns home to an icy reception from his father Joseph, who is played by Robert Duvall.

Both give their parts a polished, reserved but intense edge.

Joseph is a judge. Tough. Hard. And the love of justice and truth are his standard. It’s what he uses like a sledgehammer on the community and did with his three boys as they grew up.

Then the judge is accused of murder. After much positioning and posturing, Joseph agrees to let Hank defend him.

On the surface, the story sounds simple. It’s not. Thoughts of the film pop into mind with lightning-like rapidity. Adjectives and images flow and then disappear and are replaced by others with more depth and detail.

And then they, too, disappear.

This movie is so deep, so full and so real that it is impossible to know where to start. The acting of Downey, Duvall or supporting stars Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Billy Bob Thornton or Dax Shephard? Or how about director David Dobkin’s brilliant storytelling? He’s mostly known for easy, silly flicks like The Wedding Crashers and Fred Claus. His ability to tell a story this complex and deep seems to have come out of nowhere, but Dobkin is very much up to the challenge.

The great acting isn’t Dobkin’s only asset. He has a great script and story that he helped pen with Nick Schenk ( Gran Torino). And then there’s the exceptional cinematography of the legendary Janusz Kaminski ( Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan).

It is breathtaking at times.

This is exhausting. Metaphorically, writing about The Judge is like the scenes where something heavy is revealed to Downey’s Palmer, and while the person delivering the news rambles, their words fade and the camera focuses on him. The silence is deep and intense.

I don’t want to write. I just want to think and reflect and absorb. My guess is you’ll find your experience with The Judge much the same.

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