Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Director: Dan Gilroy.
Screenplay: Dan Gilroy.
Starring: Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Hugo Armstrong, Lynda Gravatt, Amanda Warren, San Gilroy, Tony Plana, DeRon Horton, Amari Cheatom.

“Each of us is better than the worst thing we ever did”

After his brilliantly dark urban thriller Nightcrawler in 2014, a lot of eyes were on director Dan Gilroy with an eagerness to see what he’d deliver next. Roman J. Israel, Esq. promises to be just as intriguing but it lacks the dramatic drive that made Gilroys’s last film such captivating viewing. That said, it boasts a strong lead performance that’s enough to maintain your interest.

Plot: Roman J. Israel, Esq. (Denzel Washington) is an a idealistic defense attorney who likes to work behind the scenes. However, when his colleague dies suddenly, Roman is forced to look for other work. He’s hired by another law firm who have heard of his fastidious approach to the job but by this time Roman has crossed a professional (and personal) boundary that leads to some serious implications and puts both his job and his life in danger.

Dan Gilroy’s legal drama opens with an intriguing concept of our main character’s intention to have himself disbarred from legal practise by writing a memo that proposes that he will both prosecute and defend himself due to his personal indescretions. From here on it goes on to depict Roman as a socially awkward but very competent and meticulous individual who has a passion for civil rights. Embodying this interesting character is, of course, Denzel Washington who delivers another wonderfully realised character to his already impressive resumé. Washington has been Oscar nominated for his work here and although it’s unlikely that he’ll win, this is still some solid work. That said, despite his good work, he’s not entirely afforded a strong enough script to warrant his commitment. There’s a lot of potential here but that’s probably what makes it a slightly frustrating affair as it doesn’t quite have enough of a dramatic punch to get things moving and Gilroy’s decision to go for a more restrained approach, somewhat, takes the wind out the film’s sails. Despite its great premise it doesn’t really flesh it out when it actually comes to it. It spends plenty of time on the how and why but doesn’t really keep good on its promises.

A serviceable legal thriller that has good intentions but ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere. That said, it boasts a great lead performance from Denzel and strong, cutthroat support from Colin Farrell but it’s just a shame that the film doesn’t capitalise on these two as it’s left with a script that has an air of mediocrity to it. I enjoyed this slow-moving legal drama but it needed an adrenaline shot and left me feeling that it was a missed opportunity.

Mark Walker

Trivia: 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.

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8 Responses to “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

  1. That’s pretty much the same feeling I got from it. Not nearly as bad as people are making it out to be, but definitely could’ve and should’ve been much better.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Man, I totally missed the memo about this being a new Dan Gilroy movie . . . shit!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m one of the few who quite liked it. You’re right, it doesn’t go anywhere particularly new. I do think it is all about the character and Washington’s performance is fantastic. You can tell Gilroy wrote it for him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Couldn’t agree more on Washington’s contribution here. He was very good and I was also impressed with Farrell as well. It’s a shame it fell slightly flat for me because I could see all sorts of potential. That said, it was still a decent flick.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I will watch this just for Denzel Washington. Won’t be rushing for this, but will likely check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

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