The Judge

A prince-of-darkness defense attorney in Chicago (Robert Downey Jr.) returns to his Indiana hometown to bury his mother and winds up defending his estranged father (Robert Duvall), a respected judge, in a fatal hit-and-run case. The leads are typecast to perfection—Downey glib and aggressive, Duvall principled and crotchety—but the legal drama is freighted with stale family and interpersonal conflicts, and the comic relief is unfortunate (Dax Shepard as a country lawyer who pukes before every crucial court session, Jeremy Strong as a mentally impaired man dispensing idiot one-liners). This is one of those films that uses home-movie footage as shorthand for an idyllic past; it’s a telling cliche, indicative of a writer who’s blind to any reality he hasn’t seen projected onto a screen. David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers, Shanghai Nights) directed; with Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Billy Bob Thornton.