‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’ Review


Roman J. Israel, Esq. is an American legal drama film written and directed by Dan Gilroy. The film stars Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell, and Carmen Ejogo, and follows lawyer/activist Roman J. Israel, Esq. as he goes to work for a large law firm after his partner has a heart attack and closes their small firm. The film has a very interesting story that deals with some important subject matter involving how the U.S. justice system has become less about giving people the right to a fair trial and more about scaring people into taking deals and plea bargains to make their jobs easier. This affects the lives of many American citizens every day and would have made a great film if it had been handled appropriately. Instead, this plot detail takes the backburner throughout much of the film in favor of another subplot involving Carmen Ejogo’s character, Maya. Roman J. Israel, Esq. is elevated by stellar performances from both Denzel Washington and Colin Farrell. Without them in the leading roles, the film would not succeed. Washington’s portrayal of Roman J. Israel, Esq. is different than any other role he has had before. Roman is a bit heavier and less suave than Washington’s previous characters. Yet, what he lacks in charisma he makes up for in intelligence, even though viewers are only shown his intellectual aptitude in law and legal information. Roman is shown to have a disorder that affects his social skills and habits, but this is not focused on too much. This is another first for Washington, and by playing Roman as functioning, he brings awareness to the fact that people with social disorders can lead normal lives. Farrell’s portrayal of George Pierce is minimal and leaves the viewer wanting more. For such a great actor, you would think he would have a larger role. You get a little backstory for the character concerning his connection to Roman’s partner, but nothing more. He has a combative relationship with Roman when they first meet but knows his legal expertise is worth having in his corner. Dan Gilroy does a great job at directing their scenes together to create tension that is clearly evident to the audience. The major flaw of the film is that it did not know what it wanted to be: a legal drama, a love story, or a thriller. The story feels muddled together with many scenes not having any payoff or connection to later events. Also, some of the dialogue feels stiff and lacks the emotional gravitas to make it feel believable. I give Roman J. Israel, Esq. a Normal 6.9/10. Washington and company were clearly chasing an Academy Award with this film and fell short. I’m sure there’s a better film somewhere on the cutting-room floor.




Leave a Reply