Is Team Downey’s ‘The Judge’ another October Warner Bros. Oscar power play?

Ever since Robert Downey Jr. revitalized his career, first proving he was for real on “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” and then making good on big-boy movie insurance with “Iron Man,” I've been wondering if we'll see him really seize an awards season opportunity. Yes, he was nominated in 2008 for a hilarious turn in “Tropic Thunder,” but that was as much a stunt as it was genius. When he really sinks his teeth into something non-genre again, will the Oscar machine be at his beck and call? “The Judge” could provide an answer in due time.

We're not quite there on predictions and such yet. Cannes just wrapped up and there are still elements trickling out for the upcoming season. I understand the rush to be an early bird prognosticator – we did it ourselves around here for years before it just started to feel like wasted energy. We'll chime in around the year's midway point on that score, but certainly, “The Judge” is a film on our radar.

Downey stars as a Chicago lawyer who returns to his hometown roots to defend his hostile father in a murder case. Robert Duvall stars as the eponymous judge, a bit of a town tyrant (both in the courtroom and at home), a heavy hand that pushed Downey's character away years ago.

Warner Bros. has the film locked into an October release frame that has been prime awards season real estate for the studio recently. Both “Argo” and “Gravity” hit theaters then on the tail end of the Telluride/Toronto corridor and Scott Cooper's “Black Mass” with Johnny Depp is propped up there for 2015. So does that mean we could see “The Judge” hit the fall festival circuit? Perhaps.

Entertainment Weekly's Anthony Breznican – who would appear to have seen the film, based on the language of his article – recently caught up with Downey to discuss the project. Here's what the actor had to say:

“Against his own instincts and desire, he ends up staying to defend his dad from what may or may not be an intentional vehicular manslaughter case. His father is a pillar of the community. Everybody knows a dad like the judge. Every community has one, and every family has either heard of or been under that kind of patriarchy. It”s this very American story. But it”s also a story about family, and reconciliation, and law, and justice.”

Vincent D'Onofrio also stars as Downey's older brother, who it appears take after The Judge more than his kid bro. Jeremy Strong plays Downey's younger brother, who Breznican describes as “Fredo-esque.

The film was directed by David Dobkin, who so far has delivered stuff like “Shanghai Knights,” “Wedding Crashers,” “Fred Claus” and “The Change-Up” – not exactly Oscar plays. But there must have been something in his vision for the project (which was written by Bill Dubuque and Nick Schenk) that gave Downey the confidence to lay his name on the line, as it's the first film to set sail under his and wife Susan's Team Downey production shingle.

“The Judge” hits theaters Oct. 10.