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Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Crime, Drama
IMDB rating:
Dan Gilroy
Colin Farrell as George Pierce
DeRon Horton as Derrell Ellerbee
Jocelyn Ayanna as Court Officer Bailiff
Hugo Armstrong as Fritz Molinar
Amanda Mason Warren as Lynn Jackson
Amari Cheatom as Carter Johnson
Nazneen Contractor as Melina Nassour (Ass't. DA)
Vince Cefalu as Security Bailiff
Lynda Gravatt as Vernita Wells (as Lynda GravÑtt)
Tony Plana as Jessie Salinas
Tarina Pouncy as Hallway Bailiff
Sam Gilroy as Connor Novick
Carmen Ejogo as Maya Alston
Denzel Washington as Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Storyline: 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.
Type Resolution File Size Codec Bitrate Format
LQ 1088x648 px 3867 Mb mpeg4 4715 Kbps avi Download
Never gets to a boil
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.
"I am tried 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.
Surprisingly flat.
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's...as 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.
Denzel in a wig and goofy glasses.... and that's all
Denzel Washington, whom has yet to prove himself to be a high-caliber actor, continues to choose 'wrong' roles that just aren't very interesting.

One of the problems here is the overly-familiar 'defense-lawyer-who-rises-from-the-ashes' story-line. We've seen it, it's been done. Yet here it is again, regurgitated like digging in the trash for the scraps of a meal you ate last week.

As an actor, Washington must focus on portraying a character who is credulous and likable rather than just trying to show the audience how great his acting range is (which isn't very great), this time using 'shock value' by donning an afro and some over-sized funky glasses which mostly makes Denzel look like he's fishing for an Academy Award (which he won't get).

A film which is not particularly well directed with Denzel offering his same old acting schtick. Court is dissolved. Next case.
Keep on Truckin'
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.
More pretentious posing from an actor who chooses lousy roles
You know, I don't hate Denzel Washington or anything (though his street accent does kind of bug me), but he really isn't very much of an actor. He was good in 'Philadelphia' and he at least tried to give a performance in 'Training Day', but other than those two films, Denzel is mediocre at best and simply redundant the rest of the time.

There's nothing about his character here that I find enlightening and nothing about his acting that I find unique to the role. That big hair and those gigantic eyeglasses have got to go. So does that frumpy suit, and while he's at it, Denzel can pack up his inhibited acting style and go do dinner theater somewhere, preferably off the beaten path.

In summation, if I'm supposed to be impressed with his performance, he can take the next train out of town.... I think it leaves at midnight. He better hurry before he turns into a frumpy loser with big hair and giant glasses-- wait a minute, that's the part he played in the movie. He surely wouldn't want to go back into character. That would suck.
Extraordinary Film
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.
Denzel was good, movie stunk
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.
Be true to thine Self
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.
Two time Academy award winner Denzel Washington
You know, when you have two - count them two - Academy Award Oscar wins to your credit, you can pretty much do any role you choose as you are Hollywood Gold. And that describes Denzel Washington. Perhaps this role wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but who cares it's Denzel, the actor who can pick and choose whatever role he wants. Denzel has had some great roles - St. Elsewhere, Glory, The Hurricane, Training Day, John Q, even Mo Better Blues (among many) which have been outstanding films with top notch casts and Denzel Washington leading them all with his outstanding acting talent and that "schitch" is exactly what made Denzel famous and why people love him and why he can pick and choose whatever role he pleases. And in this film, it's the dialog that takes it to the next level. No there's no hi speed car chases or shoot 'em out scenes so If this film fails to provide that sort of enthusiasm people are looking for in today's Fantasy Films, perhaps you haven't paid attention to the point of the film. Reality isn't for everyone.
See Also
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