Ten years ago, he was just beginning his career comeback, with roles in ‘The Singing Detective’ and ‘Gothika.’ Go back a bit further and he was a tainted tabloid titan, a fallen star addicted to drugs and squandering his obvious talent. What a difference a stint in rehab and an unusual casting choice can make. When Jon Favreau decided to hire Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man in his adaptation of the Marvel property, who knew that the result would be nearly $4 billion (that BILLION with a big fat “B”) in box office receipts, a pair of practical franchises (one with The Avengers one as a revamped version of the super sleuth Sherlock Holmes), and international superstardom. In fact, outside of a small turn in Favreau’s recent ‘Chef,’ Downey hasn’t been in a small movie (read: non blockbuster) in nearly four years (the inconsistent comedy ‘Due Date’).
Now we have a move to a minor key, an obvious attempt at Awards Seasons schmaltz in the guise of something called ‘The Judge.’ Directed by David Dobkin, whose not-so-promising resume includes ‘Wedding Crashers’ (okay…), ‘Fred Claus’ (uh oh…) and ‘The Change-Up’ (ewww…), it’s the story of a high profile, big city attorney (Downey) who everyone hates, including his estranged father (Robert Duvall). When his mother dies, Downey is called back to the small Indiana town where he grew up, only to have old familial tensions flair up. Things get even more muddled when dad, whose been a sitting judge in the area for over 40 years, is accused of murder. While the prosecutor (Billy Bob Thornton) wants to put him away, it’s up to Downey to step in and defend his pops. The recently released trailer spells it all out. Take a look:
Zzzzzzzzz – oops, sorry. Fell asleep there for a moment. The rural Indiana countryside sure looks relaxing and that sunny small town vibe Dobkin gives to the backdrop is equally comforting. But the story seems so…cliché. One imagines John Grisham running through his “Rejection” file to see if anyone made off with one of his story ideas. With Vera Farmiga and Vincent D’Onofrio in the cast, we have a capable collection of actors. Equally promising is the fact that ‘Gran Torino’ scribe Nick Schenk co-wrote the script. While it still seems sappy and sudsy, we’ll reserve future artistic conjecture until it’s October 2014 release. Downey is on a real roll. Hopefully, ‘The Judge’ will continue it.