The Judge (Blu-ray Review)

The Judge (Blu-ray Review)Big city lawyer Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) returns to his childhood home where his estranged wife father, the town’s judge (Robert Duvall), is suspected of murder. He sets out to discover the truth and along the way reconnects with the family he walked away from years before.




The Judge


There comes a time when one of the most popular actors in the world has to settle down and occasionally star in material that brings his acting prowess to light. That man is Robert Downey Jr. and that film is The Judge. Downey Jr. stars as Hank Palmer, a big city hotshot defense attorney who gets paid outrageous sums of money to defend people he knows are guilty. He as no trouble sleeping at night but his personal life is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

One day during trial he gets a call that his mother has passed away unexpectedly and must travel back to his hometown somewhere in Indiana. I say somewhere, because it’s irrelevant. It’s one of them backwoods sort of towns that get criticized in every other film by the flash in the pants city folk, so it’s of minor consequence what town in Indiana he’s from and coming back to. Hank arrives and meets up with his brothers and his stern father played by Robert Duvall. Judge Joseph Palmer (Duvall) is a stern man of character and presides over the small town during trials and such. As Hank visits with the family he is kept at arm’s length by the senior Palmer an their interactions are kept at pleasantries – a hand shake, no eye contact, etc.

The family is happy to see him but go about showing their affection towards Hank in very peculiar ways. Another person that Hank wasn’t expecting to reconnect with was with his high school sweetheart Samantha (Vera Farmiga). They have much to talk about while Hank and his family handles the funeral dealings and what not. Apparently Hank and Samantha had a something going on right before hank abruptly left for the bigger city. Samantha came into her own and loves her life in the small town and at the local diner. Hank is blown away that this simpleton likes it here. End sarcasm.

As Hank gets ready to leave the elder Palmer is involved in an accident and is subsequently charged with murder. This plot point is where Hank offers to defend his father in court, so as to show his quality. It’s not as easy as it sounds when your own father won’t let you defend him, because he doesn’t like that you’re a defense attorney with no moral values. Things really hit the fan when Billy Bob Thorton’s prosecutor from hell storms in and starts ravaging the elder Palmer’s case. In the end Joseph Palmer will have no choice but to seek counsel from his son.

The trailers for The Judge made the film look decent and I was looking forward to seeing the film, because I had heard that it was a very polarizing picture. You either loved it or hated it – there was no middle ground. If we’re going by that then I’ll just say that I didn’t like the film. The talent, production, budget, etc., are there on the big screen but it’s too bad that the film is riddled with clichés; it’s dour in tone, and very superficial. Hank’s character is a jerk and reminded me of Charlize Theron’s character in Young Adult, with exception to the fact that she was better written than he was. I think the scenes of potential reconciliation between Hank and his family fell flat in some spot due to the fact the film is unreasonably bloated at nearly 2.5 hours. It’s a ridiculously dense film.

I will say that some performances are subtle and nuanced and some are very in your face. Robert Downey Jr. is very subdued in his characterization of Hank but as a trial lawyer, we don’t really get to see him shine in anything. He’s more of a sideline lawyer. Robert Duvall is strong here but it’s also Bobby D. being Bobby D. – it’s expected. Everyone else is there to lend a helping albeit distant hand. The Judge just seemed like Oscar bait to me but I don’t think it was done with that in mind. Sure, the Downey’s produced the picture but I don’t think they went in there saying that it’s time to get RDJ an Oscar now that he’s conquered the world. I am a big fan of David Dobkin (Clay Pigeons, Shanghai Knights) but think he could have brought in some better screenwriters to help cut the material down a bit. In any event The Judge is here on Blu-ray for your viewing pleasure and will let you decide as to whether it’s guilty or innocent of sucking.



The Judge



Encoding: AVC MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1

Clarity/Detail: The film itself may have been an iffy affair but this high definition transfer cannot be denied. Contrast and sharpness levels are nearly pristine and I did not detect any postproduction teaks that could cause problems.

Depth: The was shot in a very natural way – the filmmakers did not carried away by adding unnecessary lens flares or any other cheats. It’s a very warm looking picture.

Black Levels: Black levels are steady and always remains deep, dark, and inky. There are no complaints to be had here.

Color Reproduction: The color palette is colorful in some spots but gets reigned in during spots that aren’t supposed to be as colorful – during storms, rain, or any other instance of the elements.

Flesh Tones: Everyone looks great in terms of complexions. Pastiness, etc., was not an issue here.

Noise/Artifacts: I did not spot many instances of dirt, debris, noise, or artifacts. The finished film looked great.


The Judge


Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1 French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

DynamicsThe Judge sounds great on Blu-ray. For a film that would to retain small-town roots – the lossless soundtrack is in cable of that. It’s a very dynamic soundtrack and it gets kicked up notch during those scenes that involve rain, storms, and slippery roads. The Judge sounds great on Blu-ray.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel is mostly subdued throughout the entire picture except when it’s called upon to add a flourish here and there.

Surround Sound Presentation: Surround sound channels handled ambience, crowds, and directional effects fairly well. Nothing got jumbled up during playback.

Dialogue ReproductionThe Judge is a dialogue driven film and those levels were all very adequate. Echoing, clipping, etc., were all absent.


The Judge


The Judge on Blu-ray is packed with some scent extras like a director’s commentary, director’s & cast roundtable, deleted scenes, and an interview session featuring Dax Shepard as he seriously tries to interview some of the primary cast.

  • Commentary by Director David Dobkin – I may not have been a big fan of the film but that doesn’t mean David Dobkin was not honest about what he was trying to bring to the screen. This audio commentary is very straightforward and will enlighten you as see what he was trying to bring to the masses in film land.
  • Getting Deep With Dax Shepard (HD) – This hilarious faux interview segment, with Dax Shepard is the highlight of this Blu-ray set. Dax has candid one-on-one interviews with Robert Downey Jr., Billy Bob Thorton, and Vincent D’Onofrio. They’re quite hysterical and it was great to see some of the cameramen almost lose it during the skit.
  • Inside The Judge (HD) – This is more of a roundtable discussion with the primary cast and crew as they talk about the profound material (in their minds) that is The Judge. It’s a decent bit of entertainment but won’t make you like the film anymore than you already have.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD) – If you thought that The Judge could not have been any longer you’d be mistaken. Here’s some delete scenes that were removed for good reason.



The Judge


The Judge was a fairly unbalance film that could have benefited from a tighter script and shorter running time. I don’t want speculate and say that everyone involved, cast and crew, were making a film for Oscar-bait. I don’t know. I can just go by what the finished film tells me. It tells me that it’s an uneven and bloated mess, with a few scenes that do stand out as actually good. The Blu-ray does come back to lift the overall product up by having an incredibly strong video and audio presentation along with some decent special features. I find the The Judge guilty of mediocrity but find the Blu-ray not guilty of sucking. Court’s adjourned.



The Judge Rules on Warner Bros. Blu-ray

January 27th








The Judge Blu-ray Cover Art


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

Comments are currently closed.