Don’t expect this is one of those courtroom dramas, where a smart-ass lawyer pulls out all the stops to score another one of his streak free wins. In fact, this has a flavour of 1981 Jane Fonda ‘s On Golden Pond: love hate relationship. At the end of the film, I came to appreciate the honesty and truthfulness of a story that could actually happen to any family, but without the courtroom drama, of course. Unless, you are born the only child in the family, favouritism and black-sheep are common themes most family could not avoid.
Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.), a successful defence lawyer in Chicago who is good in, obsessed with, and proud of winning cases, despite questionable true-nature of his clients. Hank was a renegade and ran away from his home in small town, Indiana, when he graduated high school. He left behind his family, and girlfriend, Samantha Powell(Vera Farmiga). Hank’s father, Judge (Joe) Palmer (Robert Duvall) presides the bench for over 42 years, and has had put many people in prison, and rules his home the same way as in his courtroom.
The sudden death of Hank’s mother brings him back to his hometown to face his judging dad, and rekindle relations that he abandoned: brothers, Glen(Vincent D’Onofrio) and Dale(Jeremy Strong), and high-school sweetheart, Sam.
One day Hank finds out his father’s car was involved in an accident, which spiral down to a trial of first-degree murder. The dead victim is a recently released criminal, whom Judge Palmer handed a 16 years prison term. And so the story goes….
No doubts, Duvall and Downey. Jr’s father and son was impeccable: stubbornness, frustrations, helplessness, pride, … All on display. The only thing was that Downey Jr.’s reluctance to relinquish his usual quirkiness; so at times, it blurred Hank’s personality. Farmiga has already established her acting skill, so no discrepancy in this one. Billy Bob Thornton, who plays state attorney, Dwight Dickham, was as good as always.
In other words, it works because the casting was solid, the story universal, and emotions, at times, raw and true.
WATCH…one of the worth watching films released in 2014.