Big City lawyer Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Junior) is a man for hire, as he says “innocent people can’t afford me”.
He defends rich scum-bags and runs rings around the law albeit just this side of the line, he is not pleasant, spends little time with his daughter and even less on his marriage.
When he gets the call that his mother has died, he must return to his home town to attend the funeral and check in with his family, brothers Glen (Vincent D’Onoforio) and not quite right video camera obsessed Dale (Jeremy Strong).
We get to meet Hank’s father Joseph (Robert Duvall) who officiates over the local courtroom as his own personal fiefdom. It is obvious that we are about to meet two immovable objects, the perfect setting for a family drama.
Hank also gets to meet an old flame Samantha (Vera Famiga), perhaps the one that got away, or the one he ran away from.
We see the slower rhythms of small town America where allegedly people have time to go fishing with the kids and wave to strangers as they pass them on good ole’ main street. A pastiche perhaps but necessary for the story.
When Joseph drives out to get some groceries, the drama moves from dysfunctional family into something darker and when Dwight Dicham (Billy Bob Thornton) shows up to prosecute the case, we can settle in for high class courtroom drama.
Unfortunately the sparks do not fly, Thornton is underused and whilst the film does finally gives Downey Junior a rare opportunity to actually act, the opportunity is somewhat wasted. Duvall turns in his usual measured and mature performance and yet is saddled with a deterioration that undercuts the story arc, drama and any real tension.
The interplay between the family members is well played and the evocation of small town America rings true but bearing in mind the talent on display, this must register as a disappointment. At one point a real Oscar hope, this falls well short of that bar.
There is also scenes that an audience just do not need to see, which could have been implied but is unnecessarily graphic, not at all violent but unnecessary to portray the situation in such detail.
A pleasant enough drama with some decent acting but overall a film going nowhere, Director David Dobkin seemingly somewhat unsure of the story he wants to tell.