The Judge is not a John Grisham story, but it could easily be. But it is a bog standard Hollywood courtroom drama crossed with a family redemption story, in which an excellent cast makes the most of a threadbare and unoriginal script.
It's not so much that it's a bad film, it's just lazy and it's impossible to watch t without being reminded of a dozen other similar stories, many of which have done this sort of thing better.
Robert Downey Jr is a hotshot defence lawyer who gets the rich and guilty acquitted. He lacks conscience, moral fibre and (as it turns out) a happy marriage. When his mother dies, he goes home, something he hasn't done in years because he and his father (Robert Duvall) are not on speaking terms. Duvall is a high-principled judge who can't abide his son being a gun for hire.
Back in the home town, there are of course memories, such as the girlfriend he left behind, the brothers he left behind, and – this being Hollywood – his True Self. The means by which this redemption occurs is his father being accused of murder in a hit and run case, with Big Bad Billy Bob Thornton as the prosecutor, leaving DOwney to defend his dad – something neither of them are that keen on. It's a laboured plot, and although the time passes well enough, there's never a moment when you feel you're watching anything original, exciting or unexpected.
It's also hard to imagine where the audience for this kind of thing will come from. There isn't a best selling novel, a Name to pull the crowds, or anything else to titillate the tastebuds.