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ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. is a dramatic thriller set in the underbelly of the overburdened Los Angeles criminal court system. Denzel Washington stars as Roman Israel, a driven, idealistic defense attorney who, through a tumultuous series of events, finds himself in a crisis that leads to extreme action. Colin Farrell costars as the monied, cutthroat lawyer who recruits Roman to his firm. Written by
After the premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, director Dan Gilroy and Denzel Washington decided to re-structure and re-focus parts of the narrative, which resulted in the removal of 12 minutes of footage. The director said, that the TIFF premiere served more as "a very high end test screening," because there was no time to do it before, and all involved are now happy with the final cut. [Oct. 2017] See more »
"I am tired of doing the impossible for the ungrateful"
"Roman J. Israel, Esq." (2017 release; 129 min.) brings the fictional story of the title character. As the movie opens, it appears that Roman is preparing a legal filing, where he is both plaintiff and defendant! Huh? We then go back to "Three Weeks Earlier", and we get to know Roman, as his life's circumstances are about to change drastically. Having worked "like the man behind the curtains" in a 2 lawyer criminal defense law firm, Roman's law partner suffers a heart attack and Roman must now pick up the slack, and make court appearances. Rather than ask for continuations, Roman speaks his mind freely, with dire consequences... At this point we are 10 min, into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from writer-director Dan Gilroy, who previously gave us another character-specific vehicle ("Nightcrawler" for Jake Gyllenhaal). Here he creates a role specifically allowing Denzel Washington to shine, and shine Denzel does. In fact, the entire movie rests on his shoulders, playing what appears to be a morally straight-and-narrow criminal defense lawyer who then is presented with moral dilemmas. "I am tired of doing the impossible for the ungrateful", remarks Roman. The movie is plot-heavy, and hence I shan't say more, although I will say that there are some plot holes the size of Manhattan, and it's up to you to accept those and move along, or to be bothered and essentially give up. I choose the former. Besides Denzel Washington, there are several other noteworthy performances: Colin Farrell is fine as the big-shot lawyer George Pierce, and even more so British actress Carmen Ejogo as the self-doubting social activist Maya. But in the end it's really the Denzel Washington show. Seems like he really enjoyed himself with this role. Like "Nightcrawler", this movie is ultra LA-centric, playing out mostly in downtown LA with its ritzy skyscrapers. Bottom line: I had my doubts about this movie, and certainly the ambiguous trailer didn't help. But I found myself strangely entertained by this, flaws and all, and these 2 hours flew by in no time.
"Roman J. Israel, Esq." is now into its second weekend in theaters everywhere. The Friday evening screening where I saw this at here in Cincinnati was attended okay but not great (about 15 people in a huge theater). If you enjoy a movie vehicle that allows Denzel Washington to once again shine and showcase his enormous talents, you could do worse that this. I encourage you to check out "Roman J. Israel, Esq.", be it in theaters, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
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