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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 premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, the film was re-cut by director Dan Gilroy and star Denzel Washington. The new version is 12 minutes shorter than the festival premiere. In addition to dropping some scenes, the film now features different music on the soundtrack (replacing a number of songs) and moves a scene depicting Roman and Israel going to a Lakers game at the Staples Center to an earlier point in the story. See more »
Come for Denzel, stay for...well, there's not much else to stay for.
Denzel Washington is one of the finest actors of his generation. A charismatic screen presence, he commands the viewer's attention whether he is performing a comedy, drama or action film. He has won 2 Oscars as a performer and has been nominated for his acting 6 other times - including (rightfully so) for his performance as the titular character in ROMAN J ISRAEL, ESQ.
And thank goodness he is in this film for I found precious little else to recommend in this movie.
ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. tells the story of...ahem...Roman J. Israel, Esq, a "savant" legal attorney (some would call him autistic) who has spent the past many, many years as the behind the scenes lawyer in a rundown 2 person law firm that specializes in defending "the little guy". When his partner unexpectedly dies, Roman is thrust into the world of big time, big business and big MONEY law and when Roman is sucked into this world he suffers a crisis of conscience and must decide between the luxuries that this new, rich life affords and the idealism that has driven him for all these many years.
In lesser hands, this character could have been maudlin or cloying - but in Washington's seasoned hands, this character jumps off the page as a quirky and different sort of person - a genius to be sure - but a troubled genius. One that is more comfortable alone, in his library with his books and legal briefs than with people. Washington threads the needle very well in his portrayal making Roman J. Israel seem like a real person and not just a character.
Also strong is Colin Farrell as the head of the Big Business Law Firm that Roman ends up working for. Farrell has grown as an actor in my eyes - and his portrayal of George Pierce shows a another real person behind the suit and not just a 2 dimensional caricature. Also along for the ride is Carmen Ejogo in an underwritten part as a young idealistic lawyer - and potential love interest for Roman - who reminds Roman of his younger self.
But, despite these performances, the film falls flat because - besides Roman's crisis of conscience - nothing else really happens.
The blame for this has to lie at the hands of screenwriter and director Dan Gilroy (the wonderful, underrated - and underseen - NIGHTCRAWLER). He is fascinated by the intricacies of Roman's world but fails to flesh it out. It's almost as if he was so interested in creating the trees, he never created a forest interesting enough for these trees to live in - or for us to visit.
So come for Denzel, but be warned, if you stay there's not much else to stay for.
Letter Grade B- (because of Denzel's performance)
6 (out of 10) stars and you can take that to the Bank(ofMarquis)
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