"The Judge" finds Robert Downey Jr. taking a break from playing Tony Stark to ostensibly embody a real person in a movie about real people, but don't be fooled.
This film has about as much in common with reality as a man saving the world while encased in a flying suit of iron.
It's 141 minutes of overwrought dramatics and painstakingly simplistic characterizations, featuring men shouting at each other in back-lit courtrooms and darkened country homes.
It plays like subpar John Grisham material, filled with a mistaken belief that it has something deep and emotional to say, and directed with a sledge hammer by David Dobkin, a filmmaker best known for comedies such as "Wedding Crashers."
Downey Jr. plays his usual fast-talking, hard-living type, a Chicago attorney back home in small-town Indiana to defend his estranged father (Robert Duvall), a judge charged in a hit-and-run death.
Duvall is terrific, of course, filling the part with tough pride. But he can't do anything with a clunky script that turns this story into a redemption tale that it doesn't earn. There's a level of cold calculation here, with narrative beats hit at precise times, that makes it no less cynical than your everyday Hollywood hack job.