“The Judge,” featuring the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall, premieres today, Oct. 10.
The story follows big-city lawyer Henry Palmer (Downey Jr.) as he returns home for his mother’s funeral. Tensions are already built around his relationship with his father (Duvall), and when a case of murder is pointed at Judge Joe Palmer, the son must work to defend the father in a tough court.
The film’s director, producer and story planner David Dobkin, is mostly known for past comedies like “Wedding Crashers” and “Shanghai Knights,” but creating “The Judge” was a new and gratifying experience for him.
“[‘The Judge’ was] by a long shot the best experience I’ve had as a filmmaker,” said Dobkin.
While “The Judge” is a more serious topic, it returns to Dobkin’s original goals as a filmmaker. Fresh out of New York University, Dobkin hoped to work on more serious films like “Taxi Driver” and “Apocalypse Now” but found success in comedy.
“The Judge” proved to be a chance to get back to the type of filmmaking Dobkin loves, but it was also an opportunity to use his personal experiences in a fictional movie.
“You always try to put a little bit of yourself into a movie,” said Dobkin.
After experiencing the death of his mother, Dobkin immediately sketched the story of a family, which eventually became the foundation for “The Judge.”
The family tension between father and son is a prominent theme in Dobkin’s latest film, but so is love and loss. With such undying themes, Dobkin thinks the film reads more like a “great American novel.”
To reflect this aspect of the film, Dobkin had the opportunity to film “The Judge” with actual film, instead of digital.
“We were making a version of a movie that harkened back to older movies, and they had a more classic feel,” said Dobkin. “Luckily for me, I had a cinematographer who has won two Academy Awards, and when we said he was shooting film, no one put up a fight.”
Cinematographer Janusz Kamiński, who has worked on films like “War of the Worlds,” “War Horse” and “Lincoln,” is known for his artistic use of light. Dobkin shared his praise of Kamiński.
“It felt like every day you were going to the set with Caravaggio,” said Dobkin.
However, though “The Judge” brings in artistic form elements along with a slightly depressing plot, Dobkin still brings entertainment to the film with light humor and quirky characters. “I don’t believe in people coming into the movies for two hours and not having a good time,” he said.
While the film performed well at various showings, according to Dobkin, it isn’t a complete success. As of press time, “The Judge” leveled off at a 44 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, based off of 39 reviews.
But, don’t judge too quickly; this film brings in famous actors to make a movie that isn’t created much in modern Hollywood. Check it out for yourself: “The Judge” is currently showing at local theater Severance Regal Cinemas.