First Hit: A very good film and it could have been better.
Having Robert Downey Jr. (as Hank Palmer) and Robert Duvall (as his father Joseph) in the same film can only spell amazing possibilities.
Estranged son Hank is a defense attorney who seems to always get his man freed. He knows the law, how to pick a jury and how to exploit them both to keep his high-end, high ticket clients out of jail. Joseph is a 42 year sitting on the bench judge in the same small town where Hank was raised.
Hank was a difficult child and Joseph felt it important to be a tough, no-nonsense, father. What brings them together in this story is the death of Hank’s mom, Joseph’s wife. The difficulty between the two men is quickly set forth when he sees his father for the first time and Dad simply greets him with a handshake.
On the night after the funeral, Joseph is accused of killing a former criminal by hitting him with his car and leaving the scene of the accident. Of course Hank tries to be his dad’s defense lawyer and there is where the story of reconciliation takes place. Both of these actors have a depth that wasn’t fully mined in the script.
The stubbornness and rigidness that Duvall can bring and the quick witted intelligent banter that Downey is known for was only partially displayed. One the other side of the story the scene of father and son in the bathroom while Hank’s daughter Lauren (Emma Tremblay) knocked on the door to be let in was beautifully executed.
Downey was the perfect person for the part and with a stronger script, more could have been made of his history. Duvall was the perfect person for the part of father and judge. Tremblay was great as Downey’s daughter. Vera Farmiga was divine as Hanks old high school girlfriend Samantha. Billy Bob Thornton as the prosecuting attorney was wonderful. Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque wrote this engaging but not deep enough script. David Dobkin directed this film and made good use of Duvall and Downey but there was more available to make this film great.
Overall: I laughed, was touched, and found the story intriguing but it was not quite all it could be.