MOVIES

The Underrated Robert Downey Jr. Movie Getting A Second Life On Netflix

At the beginning of “The Judge,” Robert Downey Jr.’s character Hank Palmer, a successful lawyer, is living in Chicago far from his hometown in Indiana — and though his professional life is in a solid place, his personal life is not. His wife Lisa (Sarah Lancaster) cheated on him shortly before the narrative begins, and as Hank grapples with that and prepares for a divorce, he receives word that his mother has passed away … so he heads home.

While Hank is home with his family — including his brothers Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Dale (Jeremy Strong) — he also visits his father, Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), with whom he has a seriously contentious relationship due to the fact that Judge Palmer sent Hank to a juvenile facility as a teenager after a car accident. The two briefly interact, at which point Hank notices apparent lapses in his father’s mental state, but plans to return to Chicago anyway. That plan is destroyed when Glen calls Hank and reveals that Judge Palmer hit and killed a man that he previously sent to prison — which means that Hank has to represent his father in court.

As the case proceeds, Hank also must grapple with his ex-girlfriend Samantha (Vera Farmiga) and their history, and also brings his daughter Lauren (Emma Tremblay) to meet his father for the first time. Hank successfully argues for a charge of voluntary manslaughter for his father, who was clearly suffering from mental deficiencies at the time of the accident, and after Judge Palmer returns home thanks to a compassionate release, he and Hank finally set their differences aside before the Judge peacefully passes away. Hank takes over his father’s seat, becoming the titular Judge.

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