Roman J Israel, Esq

Roman Israel is part of a two-man law firm: he does the research and the writing, while his partner makes the court appearances. But when his partner is suddenly taken out by a heart attack, it becomes clear that the firm isn’t financially solvent, and that Roman (Denzel Washington) is ill-suited to work both sides of his cases. When a large firm comes to swallow him up, headed by George (Colin Farrell), it looks bleak for Roman’s future.

But the interesting thing about Roman is that he uses the law for social justice. He’s been working on a case for years, maybe decades, that he believes could reform the system. topelementHe is well-respected by activists and has collected clients simply by treating people like human beings. George decides to keep him around, thinking it might be good for his firm to do a little pro-bono for once. This is weird timing for Roman, who has just decided that he’s tired of working for ingrates and wouldn’t mind making a little money for once. And that’s the frame of mind he’s in when he makes a terrible, unethical, life-changing decision that could ruin or cost him his life.

There is no doubt that Denzel Washington turns in a stirring performance. Roman Israel is conflicted but he asks a lot of interesting philosophical questions. However, the performance does not make the movie. Everything else is a mess. I never fully understood what the movie was telling us: is Roman autistic? Why is he so bad with people, so out of touch, so obsessive? And it turns out that this was the least confusing part of the movie, because once it branches out from character study to mild intrigue it really spirals out of control. There’s no focus. For a film that seems poised to preach about morality, my biggest concern was whether I could write a review for a movie I walked out on.

Roman is a little too quirky and the script is a lot too unbelievable. Nothing came together for me and I was not entertained or even interested. Pass.

21 thoughts on “Roman J Israel, Esq

  1. Birgit

    I’m trying to get back into blogging again, after my car accident and my mom’s funeral the day after. I am ok just sad and upset. Anyway, sorry to hear this film is not that good at all because I like Denzel..scratch that, I love this actor so I might still try this film when I get a chance


  2. raistlin0903

    Hmmm….despite it being a mess of a movie apparently, I’m still going to watch it as I am a huge Denzel Washington fan. But am of course disappointed in finding out this movie wasn’t so good 😢


    1. Jay Post author

      Well he got nominated for an Oscar for it, but it didn’t do much of anything at the box office. It premiered at TIFF so it was on my radar, but apparently they’ve completely recut it since then…and it still isn’t very good.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Keith

    I know a lot of people share your thoughts on it. I have to admit I liked it quite a bit. When doing my Top 10 list it ended up in my #11-20. I don’t know many people who were quite so enthusiastic about it.


  4. The Inner Circle

    Agreed and seriously,has there been a more “token” Golden Globe/Oscar nomination is recent history? This is a crappy movie that got ZERO love and yet here is Denzel getting a back handed nomination. Disgraceful….


  5. Pingback: Oscar Nominations 2018 | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

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