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Times of India
Story: A successful Chicago defense attorney, Hank Palmer (Downey), receives a call whilst in the courtroom, informing him that his mother has died. He rushes to his hometown for the funeral and later, extends his stay when his father faces a murder charge.
Review: The Judge is a great example of meticulously-crafted character portrayals and a film that carefully builds up each of the main characters over the course of its duration.
The passing of Hank's mother opens old wounds in his family. Older brother Glen (D'Onofrio) aims sarcastic, bitter barbs at Hank while he is still beside his mother's coffin. The youngest brother (Strong) is a simpleton with a childlike innocence who does nothing but shoot home videos most of the time. His father, a judge named Joseph Palmer is a tough nut to crack but a fascinating character, nonetheless. He is a typical old-school dad and an honest-to-a-fault judge. He feels that Hank left his family in the lurch and chose to focus on his career instead. Joseph makes this abundantly clear with his blunt, boorish language. Therefore, the death of Hank's mother puts the spotlight on the Palmer family's past cohesion and current fragmentation.
Hank himself is cocky, self-confident and boastful (he brags about his wife having the firm derriere "of a cheerleader" to one co-worker), but beneath the bluster ("You can't afford me", he blurts out to another), he is a guy who will now weather all vicissitudes with his family. An accident one night gives the story a new twist. When the old judge faces a hit-and-run (possibly DUI) murder rap and a lengthy prison sentence, Hank might be the only one with the chops to defend his dad in a court of law, especially when the prosecution's seasoned lawyer Dwight (Thornton) is hell-bent on winning. Concurrently, he also rediscovers his roots and even reconnects with a feisty old flame of his.
This is a tale encapsulated simply enough within the deceptively simple parenthesis of a small-town family bonding saga. And of course, Downey and Duvall shine.
Actors Jack Nicholson and Tommy Lee Jones were first considered for the role that finally went to Robert Duvall.
Actress Elizabeth Banks was considered for the female lead in the movie that finally went to Vera Farmiga.