Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017) Poster

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Piercing the Soft Underbelly of the American Legal System
kckidjoseph-119 January 2018
In "Roman J. Israel, Esq.," a drama written and directed by Dan Gilroy with Denzel Washington in the title role, the American legal system and the people who must somehow operate within its confines are exposed for what they are: an uneven mix of good and bad, with the tilt toward one or the other dependent as much or more so on the moral compass and grit of the individual as on circumstance, no matter how imposing or seemingly impossible they might be.

When someone asks criminal defense lawyer Roman what the "esq." on his business card is for, he replies _ proudly, with a wry grin: "A little above gentlemen and a little below knight." He might have added, a little below knight in white shining armor and a lot above an uncaring, fee-collecting robot.

Roman has spent his life fighting small injustices on behalf of the disenfranchised, a fight for which he has never been given credit while giving it everything he has, including sacrificing any kind of personal life to do it. He's been the real brains behind a small two-partner law firm he's formed with his former professor, and while tackling unglamorous cases he also has been assembling a brief that will change the class action portions of the justice system forever.

When his partner, in no small way the front man, has a heart attack and is incapacitated, Roman learns that the firm is in fact broke and has been much less altruistic than he was aware, something his former professor kept secret from him.

Roman subsequently applies for a job with slick young attorney George Pierce (Colin Farrell), whom his partner put in charge if something were to happen to him. it's an uneasy fit from the beginning, and Roman finds himself almost immediately morally and ethically challenged, not only in his interpersonal approach to clients and cases but in who he can defend and why.

When he tackles the case of a young African-American man arrested and charged with murder during a convenience store holdup, he begins to question everything he is and has done.

What Roman decides to do, and the consequences of his actions, are the core of a story that reflects scores of small real-life dramas playing out across the country well off the front pages, but significant in how they shape our beliefs and culture.

This may be Washington's finest work yet, a quiet if somewhat klutzy Everyman whose legal genius has both separated him from the norm while thrusting him into its very heart and soul.

This also may be Farrell's best film turn to date, an understated performance that stabs at the soft underbelly of our legal system.

The rest of the supporting cast _ including Carmen Ejogo, Amari Cheatom, DeRon Horton, Amanda Warren, Nazneen Contractor, Shelly Hennig, Joseph David-Jones and Andre T. Lee _ are uniformly excellent in their restrained intensity.

At once uplifting and disturbing, "Roman J. Israel, Esq." is outstanding on all counts.
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Interesting story, told poorly but acted by Denzel brilliantly.
TheTopDawg2 February 2018
This film was Dan Gilroy's second directorial debut, and although his forte of experience is writing, he failed that department, and did better in his directing (camera work, but not his choice of editing).

The problem with the writing is the dragged out mumbo-jumbo Denzel Washington had to say to express his savant mentality, most of it not making any sense or philosophically unnecessary, and it extended into 2+ hours of doing so. Denzel carried his role so exceptionally well, that had this film been edited down to 80 or 90 mins by getting rid of the convoluted and unnecessary dialogue, it would have been dramatized much better.

Then there's the premise to the film; standing all this time for a cause, then slipping to the other side, then going back. What was the point? What was the message?

This film is nothing extraordinary, but nevertheless, Denzel and Colin Farrell's great acting were the only reason this film has as high (6.3) of a rating as it does, and would have been much lower with any sub-A list actors, or higher with better writing.

It's a generous 7/10 from me
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Be true to thine Self
bramaniblue27 November 2017
I found this to be some of the best work Denzel has done. I thought he hit the nail on the head in terms of helping his viewers feel empathy for the character. I have to be honest here. I strongly believe that if you are in your sixties and of African-American heritage this may really hit home on many levels. In general it is a film about holding on to our core values, then forgetting them to join the rest of societal madness only to realize that you were not alone in your view of the world. Restoring your original core only to pay the price of deserting it in the first place. Everyday we see people forfeit family,love and life for materialistic gains and other power trips. This is also about the change of values from one generation to another in today's world. This is a film with a message that has and will go over a lot of heads judging by some of the bad reviews I've read. Awesome sound track consisting of 60's and 70's soul and rock. Excellent character portrayals by all bar none.
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The Ghost Of Sidney Lumet Lives!
statuskuo3 December 2017
For a split second there, you are watching "Q&A" or any of the other political dramas Sidney Lumet was famous for. Despite what reviewers have said here, this is mature movie that exists in a different time. And it is tragic that it is lost in the dummies of 2017 society.

The story is of a lawyer whose past convictions of social injustices get called to task when his partner suffers a heart attack. Roman is thrust into reality of facing the people who he left a long time ago to be the shadow autistic man content to vomit all sorts of facts without a shred of...personality tolerable to anyone. Everyone who has worked in an office knows this guy. He's aggravating because he only understands a brand of logic that lacks...spirit. He laughs at the wrong moments. And when put in social situations...he will anger you. However, he possesses massive commitment to a social cause. There's a line in the movie where an admirer defends Roman as "we stand on his shoulders." In other words, despite his annoyance...he has contributed to the cause. What cause is the question. The answer? It doesn't matter. The cause is ambiguous other than Black crime and rights. Which isn't the point it's trying to make. I would guess, it means to be anything we have convictions of and lose sight of will ultimately destroy us. Is that a digestible concept. Not to this world. In all honesty, when Roman starts to slip, we are actually much more comfortable. Because we all sell out when times get rough. This is a wonderful film that will be discovered years later. Much like a Sidney Lumet film (can you even name one). I will say, people will watch it and feel shame they didn't seek it out later. Denzel Washington should get nominated here.
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Extraordinary Film
kisssara29 November 2017
Probably the best film I have seen this year...and most definitely, Denzel Washington's performance, among the greatest I have ever seen. With this film, he is our most gifted American actor today. Last year at the Golden Globes his mannerism were so idiosyncratic...he must have been still deep inside of this character...most likely, still filming Roman. This film affected me greatly. I am so moved by this character's eccentricity, wit, grace and soul. Brilliant writing and direction. I want to see this picture again.
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Keep on Truckin'
ferguson-621 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Greetings again from the darkness. Denzel Washington is one of our most iconic actors and he's put together a remarkable career, including 8 Oscar nominations and two wins. He's had his Al Pacino SCARFACE comparable with TRAINING DAY, his Robert DeNiro GOODFELLAS comparable with American GANGSTER, and here he gets his Dustin Hoffman RAIN MAN as he plays the titular Roman J. Israel, Esquire. It's a role that lacks Denzel's usual cool factor, but it's one in which he dives head first.

'Esquire' rates "above gentleman, but below Knight" as described by Roman. He has spent more than 30 years as the wizard behind the curtain of a two man law firm run by his mentor and partner William "Bulldog" Jackson. We never really meet Mr. Jackson, as circumstances force the closing of the firm and shove an uncomfortable-with-change Roman into the high profile and high dollar firm run by George Pierce. Mr. Pierce is played by a strutting Colin Farrell – and no actor peacocks better than he.

It's here we must note that Roman appears to have a touch of Asperger's and/or be some type of legal Savant. He's kind of a Dr. Gregory House for the legal profession – remarkable on the details, while lacking in the delivery. His long held idealism and belief system were in fine form while he was the back office guy, but Pierce forces him into the front lines and it's a bumpy transition with sometimes comic and sometimes tragic results.

The film bookends with Roman crafting a legal brief, that while somewhat convoluted, is actually more of a confession, with himself as both plaintiff and defendant. Much of the film focuses on Roman's idealism and revolutionary beliefs, and what happens when that crumbles. There is an odd quasi-love interest with Maya, played by Carmen Ejogo (SELMA). We never really grasp why she is so taken by him, other than his seemingly solid belief system reminds her that a mission of goodness and justice is always worth fighting for.

Writer/director Dan Gilroy is one of the quiet secret weapons in Hollywood these days. His last project was the terrific NIGHTCRAWLER, and he's also written the screenplays for this year's KONG: SKULL ISLAND, and one of my favorites from 2006, THE FALL. Here he teams with Oscar winning cinematographer Robert Elswit (THERE WILL BE BLOOD) to deliver a stylish look that feels unique to the story and characters … the frumpy look of Roman, the ultra-slick look of Pierce, and the various textures of the city. It's really something to behold – especially when accompanied by Roman's ringtone of Eddie Kendrick's "Keep on Truckin'". A couple of cast members worth mentioning: for you NBA fans, Sedale Threat Jr (son of the long time player), and simply for catching my eye in the closing credits, an actor named Just N. Time. There is plenty to discuss after this one, but mostly it's a chance to watch Denzel chew scenery.
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A Character Study, but Not Much Else
fletcherc2122 November 2017
Denzel Washington stars as Roman J. Israel, Esq. a mildly savant criminal defense attorney whose life is turned upside down when his longtime law partner passes away. Suddenly the passionate civil rights attorney who thanks to his fiery demeanor should stay far away from an actual courtroom, is left looking for a job. He is forced to settle for working for George Pierce (Colin Farrell) a successful defense attorney, whom Roman views as a profiteer who doesn't care about his clients. The entire ordeal breaks Roman, who sells out his ideals and loses sight of who he was.

Denzel gives a good performance as the extremely passionate and slightly eccentric Roman J. Israel Esq., but Roman's penchant for long rambling speeches made for tedious viewing. Colin Farrell's Pierce develops into a much deeper character than he originally appears to be and is utilized well. However, while Roman's struggle to find his identity is the core of the film it never really is able to captivate. Ultimately the film settles in as an interesting character study that struggles to come together as anything more than that. While many would be content with that, it is a disappointing follow up for Dan Gilroy after his excellent debut with Nightcrawler.
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This is not a cinematic universe or comic book blockbuster ITS A REAL MEANINGFUL MOVIE
mohammad-moallem3 February 2018

I left this movie out because I thought it was a 'lawyer get mixed with the wrong guys type a movie bad guys and cops" but its really not that at all. Its about this adorable character (which I never thought I'd say that about Denzel Washington) that basically does charity through his profession as a lawyer. The movie is about moral values in a world were profit is preventing us from making the right choices.

Denzel's performance far surpasses a Oscar win, even if he doesn't win it, he did a fantastic job on this movie. Theres a scene involving a homeless person and oh how it summarises our robotic inhuman society and what we think is the right thing to do.

Denzel Washington, Sir, if you ever read this, I would like to thank you for trying your best to choose movies and roles that ASPIRE, TEACH AND INFLUENCE. I have watched all your movies and they have caused me to learn about many things and be a better person. Thank you also to the director, who wrote the movie as well.

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Michaelmarvin7927 January 2018
This is an amazing movie with 2 of the best actors on the planet! Sometimes you must have a little bit of smarts to understand the movie ... Just because a good movie like this doesn't have explosions, and gunfire does not make it a bad movie!!! Anybody who has been involved or worked in the legal field will love this movie. Also it has a message that...yes on paper we have rights, but when judges, prosecutors, police, some lawyers abuse their power and go against what this country was founded on! 100s of thousands of inmates arcross our country are falsely accused and wrongly convicted... our forefathers built our court/ justice system to have certain procedural rules and laws to prevent those things from happeng... so anytime you get a chance to learn about our country and let DENZEL explain it to you with the magic of film..... I'll take it everytime! Watch the movie it's awesome!
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Surprisingly flat.
MartinHafer25 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Back in 2014, Dan Gilroy made his first full-length film, NIGHTCRAWLER. For a freshman effort, it's truly amazing as it was one of the best films of the year and was a deeply disturbing but rewarding film to watch. Because of this, I was excited to see a preview showing of "Roman J. Israel Esquire" as the Philadelphia Film Festival. Plus, many were excited because Gilroy managed to get the services of Denzell Washington to star in this film. Sadly, the film was a bit of a disappointment.

The film begins with Israel learning that his law partner has had a massive heart attack. This is a problem because they are the only two in the practice and Israel only works behind the scenes and the partner is the man who tries the cases in court. Apparently, Robert Israel is something like a person with Asperger' he has minimal people skills and looks like he's still living in 1975. At first, he seems nerdy and weird but good-hearted. Eventually, you come to realize he's a jerk-face...and that is where the film lost me. Having the lead be a total jerk down deep makes for hard viewing. A mildly interesting film at best and a huge disappointment.
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The trailers don't do justice to this film
justin-fencsak23 May 2018
This film is so underrated. Denzel Washington plays the main character of the movie, a criminal defense lawyer. When the film premiered, some footage was cut for timing reasons, which can be seen on the dvd. It didn't do well at the box office due to minimal promotion yet it's finding new life on home media. Go see it.
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The Viewer Becomes The Character
tin-borgman16 February 2018
This is a BRILLIANT journey from the perspective of someone utterly detached from any personal connection to those around him.

The story is told and presented in such a way that you, the viewer, feel as detached as Roman is, but compelled to follow his journey to the end. For although he has difficulty with human interaction, and detached from humanity on a personal level, he feels a strong responsibility for humanity itself.

Denzel, as Roman, is a behind the scenes lawyer, a legal savant with some mental complications (I'm no doctor) which many brilliant people, especially savants, often face.

Colin Ferrell is a successful lawyer who finds himself perplexed by Roman's behaviors while increasingly inspired to adopt Roman's mission in life as he is reminded of the reasons he went into law himself.

As the story unfolds, you find a detached sympathy for Roman in the same way he would feel for you. How uncanny that we can be so manipulated in the acting and direction process, while some viewers leave disappointed with the movie as "flat" or bad because they couldn't get emotionally involved with Roman, silly gooses, that was supposed to happen.

Roman's emotions are absent, or sometimes buried, as in the way he continually failed to express a normal response to the health predicaments of his former legal partner, something presented from the beginning of the movie and throughout.

It's a story which moves fast but isn't an action movie, it has no needless scenes or dialogue. In addition to the story of Roman, it tells the story of one particular concern within our legal system. It certainly deserves much more than the 6.4 rating it currently has. I would give it a solid 7.5 which is quite respectable at IMDb.
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To See, or Not To see.... That is the Question.
rgkarim23 November 2017
The legendary Denzel Washington is associated with so many legendary roles that will forever live in the hearts of millions. And like many people, when I see he a movie of his about to release, I get excited I'm in store for another masterpiece. Enter Roman J. Israel Esq, a movie that from the trailers, held potential to be an interesting biography of a powerful legal, pro- action character that was certain to stir up trouble. Will it be powerfully emotional to fill your eyes to the brim with tears, or something else? Robbie K here to give you some insight into yet another movie this holiday season, let's get started.


The Message: Never say that a Denzel movie doesn't deliver a powerful punch in the emotional level. Roman J. Israel Esq, is another visual tribute to the topic of truth, honor, and the moral obligations of justice. The whole movie portrays the struggle of holding on to your beliefs vs. diving into the acceptable flow the public/society deems normal. We all have breaking points that push us into new areas and test our fortitude, the question is where does one cross the line and how far do they leap over it. Roman's tale shows the challenge quite well and more so what can happen when pushes the boundaries too far. It will get you thinking and perhaps question your own philosophies, assuming you can get past the other parts of this movie.

The Acting…kind of: Denzel still has his acting skills down pat. He portrays the awkward character quite well, capturing the serious thoughts, the quirky mannerisms, and even the speech patterns necessary for portraying the mind within. Even more impressive though, is how well he acts out the struggles of the high stakes choices that bear heavy on his mind. At times, one can feel the weight of the decisions bearing down on them, the anxiety of making the wrong choice radiating out in the sequences. His supporting cast helps open up more dilemmas to tax him, but can't say they have the most involvement in the town.

The Music: The soundtrack is not the most toe tapping number, but one can appreciate the soul behind the songs selected for this movie. There selections were choice representations of the tone of the scene, sort of artistically symbolizing Rowan's mood and his answer to the current obstacles that plague him. It's a dynamic track list that constantly changes between genres, and fits so well into much of the movie, while perhaps bringing back some nostalgia for other fans.


The weaker character moments: Despite all the quarks Denzel got, his character isn't the most engaging or magical of the roles he has played. Past the morals he boasts, Roman just doesn't have a lot to him. He was a fairly flat character, with disinterest seeming to ooze from Denzel during much of the performance, almost like he had to really push himself to play the part. I had a hard time caring about him, the potential the trailers building failing to live up as Roman continued to just shrug more and more of the qualities I looked for. A redeeming moment at the end got the steam going, but by then it was too late and the movie was over. It also doesn't help that the supporting character actors don't seem too excited in their roles, and are just as mundane as some of Roman's personality. The characters just aren't engaged in the tale, and many aren't utilized to their full potential.

Boring: The emotional trials are strong, the food for thought even more of a rewarding experience, but did the movie have to be so dull? While I never expected this film to be an action packed, guns blazing tale, I certainly didn't expect the movie to lack so much suspense. The plot didn't have enough edge, there wasn't enough action or peaceful protest, and the absence of any real villain just led to a very lackluster tale. I had to fight sleep a couple of times in this movie, though it could be due to the long work day, but a Denzel Movie is usually more charged than what I was presented. Which brings me to my next dislike…

Ambiguous: The movie's biggest problem for me was how aimless the plot was. The writers didn't seem to figure out which way they wanted to take the film, is a piece about being an activist, is it a biography, is it a crime/drama? I couldn't quite figure out the myself, but they settled on a little bit of everything, but didn't hit the high-quality components of the genres. The film could have used more crime/mystery to add the suspense, perhaps with a theme surrounding the hot political issues they try to cover, all showing the skills of the whomever Roman represented. I don't fell many will enjoy the approach they took, and the ambiguous story telling that was just stale and sad than anything else.


It held such potential, but Roman Israel Esq, just couldn't find its ground in the grand scheme of things. Denzel tried to do the heavy lifting, and accomplishes the messages of balancing morals, but outside of that lacks any big sustenance to him. In addition, the boring pace, weaker character interactions, and ambiguous plots, the movie just fails to provide the very justice it wanted to serve. Sad to see the legendary actor have a weaker film, but this reviewer encourages you to skip this movie and focus on the treasures that have already come out for your theater viewing pleasure, all while hoping Denzel will have another Oscar worthy film in the future.

My scores:

Crime/Drama: 6.0 Movie Overall: 5.0
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Denzel Washington at his best, proving once more he is one of best of his generation!
allan-costa13 March 2018
Denzel is simply fantastic in this movie (if he had stolen the Oscar from Gary Oldman it would not have been unfair), excellent script, story very well told. With a competent direction of Dan Gilroy, who imposes his marks, remembering in several aspects the Night Crawler, another of his great moments. Film underrated, should have been nominated at least for best direction, perhaps best motion picture of the year. Colin Farell very well, cinematography very well embedded in the plot. Note 9. Must see.
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Never gets to a boil
joanne-ca8 December 2017
Denzel Washington can carry a movie and that is the only reason that seeing this movie isn't a complete disappointment. As a Canadian I wondered if the movie never seemed to get out of the gate because I missed Los Angeles cultural nuances that for the conversant made it filled with purpose. I found that the characters had a lot about themselves and their lives that could have been developed, but only the surface was skimmed. Background was in staccato snippets that left a lot on the table in terms of building depth, drawing me in, or giving me a good reason to keep watching. Not all occurrences in the movie were plausible, which is problematic as the movie aims to be realistic. The character of George was unexpectedly interesting, so that added a star to my bottom line.
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Another Oscar contender for Denzel Washington
hollywoodhernandez-7086830 November 2017
Roman J. Israel, ESQ, staring Denzel Washington is out now in limited release and it is already receiving rave reviews from movie critics and has also been nominated for two NAACP Image Awards (Best Picture and Best Actor). It looks like it will be another contender for Washington come Oscar time.

The movie does however suffer from a lack of availability at movie theaters. It's currently showing on just about 1,600 screens nationwide while a movie such as Justice League, in wide release, is showing in about 4,000 movie theaters. So it will take a bit of looking to find the movie at you local cineplex, but it will be well worth your effort.

In the movie Denzel plays the title character, Roman J. Israel, ESQ. He is an idealistic lawyer who has the luxury of hanging onto his civil rights era beliefs since he doesn't try cases. His partner had been the litigation lawyer for the two man law firm, allowing Roman to work on court briefs back in the office, while never stepping into a courtroom. That all changes when his partner suffers a stroke and is hanging on to life in a hospital on life support.

That's when Denzel's quirky, almost Autistic, character traits come into play. First he loses his job in the law firm as the heirs of his partner start to plan for his impending passing. Now, Roman J. Israel, ESQ. needs to make a living so he takes a job in a huge law firm that's headed by his partner's college protegee (played very slickly by Colin Farrell).

Denzel plays a fish out of water with his odd behavior and his inability to grasp the concept of subtlety. He speaks his mind when he shouldn't and even his style of hair and dress is out of place in a modern corporate law firm.

He tries to hang on to his core values by volunteering at a community center working with teens.That's where he meets Maya, played by actress Carmen Ejogo. She becomes his mentee and the two soon become more than friends. She worships him for his values and the struggles he's been through as a advocate for civil rights.

Eventually Roman makes some mistakes in his dealings with lawyers and clients. He shows that he's human and has to give up on some of his principles and ideals in order to survive. He ends up being chased by criminals, after her betrays a client who's in jail, and his world is turned upside down by his mistakes. In the end he tries to make amends for his mistakes and ends up inspiring others by his attempt to make good on the error of his ways.

Roman J. Israel, ESQ is a terrible title for a movie, but it's another winner for Oscar winner Denzel Washington. The movie is rated PG-13 and runs just over 2 hours. On my "Hollywood Popcorn Scale" Roman J. Israel, ESQ gets my highest rating; a JUMBO (with extra butter). Hollywood Hernandez
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Keep on truckin'.....
FlashCallahan2 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A driven, idealistic defense attorney life is upended when his mentor, a civil rights icon, dies.

When he is recruited to join a firm led by one of the legends former students, ambitious lawyer George Pierce, and begins a friendship with a young champion of equal rights, a turbulent series of events ensue that will put the activism that has defined Roman's career to the test.....

Washington is the kind of actor that will sell a film due to the fact that he is in it, not many actors/actresses have that star power these days.

It's because whatever project he decides to work on, he has a screen presence that is second to none. He is one of the last greats of the screen. And unlike fellow greats like Pacino or De Niro, he very rarely makes a film just for the money.

He is passionate about his work, and that's a rarity of any career.

This film is a totally different beast to his other works, and Washington has never played someone like the titular character before.

Roman is a very unlikable person to begin with, and one cannot blame the never touched upon mental health problem he has. Maybe it's all he influence he's had in his life allowing it wash over his opinion, or maybe he's living in the sixties and has never really caught up with the times, but at times, he comes across as an abhorrent person who needs to be told a few home truths.

But this is where Washington excels in his method. Yes, Roman is unlikable, but Washington portrays him in a way that makes you care for him, and actually root for him.

Is it because other characters are just as unlikable? Hardly. Farrell initially comes across as your atypical partner in a firm who doesn't suffer fools, but as the film progresses, he is one of the most empathetic characters in the film.

As the narrative progresses, and Roman starts to think outside of the box regarding his career, the film takes a sinister turn and becomes almost hauntingly unnerving when you realise that Roman is biting. Off far more than he can chew.

It's almost as your thrown into a thriller type movie without any change of action, setting or arc. It's very difficult to explain, but the film just has an air of intensity, much like Manns The Insider, just a little change to the camera angle or the lighting changes the mood of the film into something else.

It starts of very slowly, we are gradually introduced to Roman and his maundering day, and we feel the slog he goes through day to day.

It's an impressive piece for sure, but a very acquired taste.

Washington is immensely impressive, a total change to what he has done before. You really couldn't imagine whilst watching this he made Training Day 16 years prior.

My only gripe is that the activism parts of the film are not handled in the best way, and although they are relevant to the narrative, they just feel uncomfortable.

Well worth seeing though.
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'The real enemies aren't the ones on the outside, they're on the inside.'
gradyharp25 February 2018
California writer/director Dan Gilroy addresses more contemporary hot coal issues in this fine film and makes us sit up and pay attention - even if the direction of the film is a bit haphazard. The film remains very powerful primarily due to the soaring performance by Denzel Washington as an idealistic defense attorney whose philosophy includes human rights and extends beyond that to themes of morality and the flaws of our current legal system.

The story 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. When Roman's law partner dies he is without employment and without severance pay as his office has always supported clients whose legal needs cold not be monetarily reimbursed despite the justice the firm represented. He attempts to gain employment in a civil rights law firm headed by Maya Alston (a radiant Carmen Ejogo) who praises Roman's beliefs and work but has no salary to hire him. Through a tumultuous series of events, finds himself in a crisis that leads to extreme action. George Pierce (Colin Farrell) is the monied, cutthroat lawyer who recruits Roman to his firm. The manner in which Roman copes with a bad decision alters his role: to say more would be spoilers.

A quote by Roman speaks well to the core of the resolution of the film:' You know, all those years of practicing, scouring law books, achieving technical triumphs through loopholes and ambiguities, none of which were adequate to same me from the reality of my present situation. Then today, in the middle of nowhere, lost, I had a revelation; an insight so sweeping, so clear. It's me George. See, I didn't see it before because I never experienced the other side. I'm the defendant and the plaintiff simultaneously. I file against myself, I represent myself, I convict myself, hereby expanding the full scope of the legal desert, because the judgment's built in. The only thing left is forgiveness and I grant that to myself. An act doesn't make the person guilty unless the mind is guilty as well.'

Additional performances by Lynda Gravatt, Amanda Warren, Tony Plana. Sam Gilroy, DeRon Horton, et al are excellent. But the towering power comes from Denzel Washington - Oscar worthy!
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Another edgy, noir(ish) trip in LA with a glorious oddball
MisterWhiplash24 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Gilroy scores big with Denzel. It's one of his MAJOR works of the 21st century and it makes me so pleased to see a guy in his 60s who could/should be resting on his laurels with a challenging human being to nail. He does a metric-ton of work to create a completely distinctive introvert/savant person we have never seen him do before and it shows. But Gilroy needed to work more on the script; events move along far too quickly given how much does happen to/by/from Israel, and I feel mixed not so much on the very end but on the climax (spoiler: it confirms a trope raised many times on the "Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time" podcast). So it is good, at times very good. But it's a teeny slump after the knockout of Nightcrawler, which this feels like a cousin to. I wonder now if Gilroy will create his own 'LA Mental Case' cinematic universe (one can also tell that these are very much stories of the American dream and how the system work; the TV network and Farrell's legal office are by the books and full of "normal" people, and who wants that?)
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No drama. No fun. No action. No suspense. Still it is very intelligent and fascinating.
imseeg20 April 2018
What we have here is a portrait of an idealistic lawyer with autism, played by Denzel Washington. The lawyer loses his sheltered job and is now forced to take care of himself despite his huge autism handicap. Will he survive or will he break down?

"Roman J. Israel" is a thoughtful, intelligent and fascinating movie. But not suited for those without patience and understanding of people with autism. It is acted very well, but is unlike any other Denzel Washington movie I have ever seen. If you were only interested in Denzel's actionmovies before, then I strongly advise you to walk away, because this is a slowburner. Nothing much happens. Slow tempo.The dynamic of this movie mimics autistic characteristics: the movie itself becomes void of big emotions, just like the main autistic character played by Denzel Washington. The story meanders a bit, which can be confusing. But then again Denzels life as a lawyer is confusing and chaotic as well. The story follows the characters mindset, which is all over the place. Had difficulty understanding WHAT kind of film this was, because I didnt knew beforehand that Denzel played a lawyer with autistic tendencies.

Is it still any good? Yes, but it is probably only suited for a smaller arthouse audience, with an open mind for people with mental disabilities. Puzzling, intelligent portrait of an idealistic lawyer with autism, with an ending that comes close to feel good, but with some questions left open. I have never been so puzzled before by any Denzel movie as with this one...

At an end note: Mind you, look at the poster, what do you see? He looks away, you dont see his face. That's unheard of. But done deliberatedly. Autistic people fear communication with others. They look away. Avoid (eye) contact. Misinterpret other people's meanings. That is what this movie is about. And it is also about the positvie characteristics. It is also about idealism and the typical characteristics that make autistic people special and admirable. Very delicate and confusing movie. Fascinating nonetheless...
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An implosive FALLING DOWN; Washington is rock solid in this uncompromising character study.
george.schmidt19 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. (2017) *** 1/2 Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Amanda Warren, Tony Plana. Washington is rock-solid as behind-the-scenes partner of a law firm who is suddenly thrust from his complacent employment when he loses his job as a reliable, savant-like parable of virtue and a relic of the '70s as a civil rights advocate and public speaker, stymied by the 21st century no thanks to the unlikely set-up with slick attorney Farrell while also trying to change his own life in the process. Written and directed by Dan Gilroy with aplomb and skill in this somewhat implosive 'Falling Down'. Washington completely chamelonizes himself with Israel's bad 'fro, schlumpy walk and questionable fashion yet embibes him with the skills of being right among the wrong even as it threatens all he has stood for. Uncompromising.
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So, there is this lawyer who is a bad version of Columbo or Monk, but this is SERIOUS! Because society or something...
mshavzin28 November 2017
and we watch him prance around the screen, and we keep on getting told that he is really, really smart. Except that nothing he does is particularly smart. Its a completely informed attribute. And then there is just more of this guy bumbling around and we keep on being told how intelligent he is....and I am pretty sure if you started watching the film in the middle, or at the end, it wouldn't change anything. Its kind of clever as a character sketch, except the character is not believable, and doesn't go through any kind of development. Really when you see the trailer you get most everything you need to know about the film handed to you. If the film was a bit less pretentious, and took itself a bit less seriously you could just laugh at it. But it won't let you do that, because serious social issues, and a serious actor! But the wig is still really bad, and I don't think it was on straight for several scenes.
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Laughably horrible
scottjtepper5 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Roman Israel is a nasty, bumbling lawyer who doesn't have the personality, patience or wits to appear successfully in court or even represent a client. And, yet, he is supposedly a savant who can write legal pleadings like no one else.

Please. It's all nonsense.

From getting into a meaningless fight with a judge at a preliminary hearing (where he should have asked permission to make a record -- any paper pushing "savant" would know that), to giving the address of a murder suspect to get the reward (in cash -- as if), Israel proves himself to be both an incompetent lawyer and an ethical disaster.

And a street punk who murdered a shop owner and is picked up based on a tip by Israel for the reward requires more than a suspension of disbelief. It requires affirmative stupidity. First, this street punk has the wherewithal to hire somebody to stalk and kill Israel. Sounds like the street punk has enough resources to avoid robbing shop owners. And, second, the reward gets paid before the conviction of the street punk? Rewards are given for the "arrest and conviction . . ."

I'm not sure who the technical advisor was on the film, but there are numerous legal errors which could have been easily corrected to make at least that part of the story more believable. At least until the end. The last scene, where Roman's masterpiece is filed in federal court, bearing his name (posthumously, it is inferred) as lead counsel, is impossible. Filings are now required to be made electronically.

But Gilroy doesn't want facts or reality to get in the way of a good story. Problem here is -- it's not a good story.
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kdshop-5569328 January 2018
Starts off like it will be interesting but only gets more ridiculous as it drags on.
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Denzel was good, movie stunk
freddyj88820024 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I have given this movie a 3 just because Denzel was in it. He did a great job in portraying this Autistic person, but the movie just really stunk. I wanted to and tried to like it, but to say that I did would be a lie. The first half of the movie was interesting and looked like it was building a good story line. Somewhere towards the end, the entire movie just went completely sideways. It started jumping all over the place and was hard to follow. There were scenes with people crying and you didn't know what they were crying about. There was a scene in which Roman and the civil rights lady found what they thought was a dead African American man on the corner. Two police officers pulled up and began to act like complete fools, which gave Roman the opportunity to announce to the world his thoughts on American politics. then the dead guy gets up and walks away. The Police officers drive off and there's just Roman and the lady. What the hell was that?. Don't wasted and money on this mess and there will be no Oscar's for this mess.
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