Audiences will get to see Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall in "The Judge" starting on Oct. 10, but the Warner Bros. release had its world premiere at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. Here's a two-word review: It's fine. Downey and Duvall are both good in this one, which seems destined to serve out the rest of its sentence on TNT for the foreseeable infinity.
"The Judge" is actually almost ready-made for cable viewing. The supporting cast includes Leighton Meester, Dax Shepard, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio, Ken Howard and Billy Bob Thornton, all of whom have appeared on television series within the last five years. Add those names to the film's overly bright lighting, supplied by cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (who never met a window he didn't want to blow out with white light), and "The Judge" feels like an actual legal drama coming to ABC this fall. You're almost surprised James Spader and William Shatner don't show up.
Well, they don't. But Willie Nelson sort of does. Nelson doesn't appear in "The Judge," but his name is the subject of a one-liner during the film and his cover of Coldplay's "The Scientist" plays over the closing credits. That part of the movie is weird and surprising -- two things "The Judge" is not as it plays things down the middle.
Beyond that, there's something to be said about "The Judge" being Downey's first drama since 2009's "The Soloist," and his first non-franchise leading role since 2010. He's the biggest star in the world right now thanks to Iron Man, and if Downey wants to use that clout to make retro mainstream dramas like "The Judge," more power to him. These kind of movies have value! "The Judge" would have been a great John Grisham adaptation in 1995. Sydney Pollack could have directed it, and maybe Willie Nelson would have covered The Police for the closing credits.
"The Judge" is out on Oct. 10.