In theaters for Thanksgiving weekend from writer/director Dan Gilroy and Columbia Pictures is a different look at the law from the eyes of “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”
Roman (Denzel Washington) is a lawyer who doesn’t go into the courtroom but instead is responsible for writing the briefs for employer Jackson. Going to work and being in a routine is what works for Roman.
That is until his boss of 30 years has a heart attack and daughter Lynn (Amanda Warren) announces that the office will close and the clients will be taken by George Pierce (Colin Farrell). Roman cannot comprehend what is happening but George steps in and offers him a job at his firm.
Wanting to try something different, Roman meets Maya Alston (Carmen Ejogo) who is responsible for a volunteer law service. There meeting is strained and Roman has no choice but to take the job with George.
Their first case is a young man named Derrell (DeRon Horton) who is involved in a store robbery and murder. Roman tries to work the case himself to make a deal with the D.A. in exchange for information regarding the other man who is wanted by police. When that goes wrong, George is furious and Roman spirals.
Doing the unthinkable, he decides to do for himself and experience life outside of the law. When it all becomes too much, Roman does what he has always done – what works for him.
Washington as Israel is a character locked into his ways and has no problem giving his opinion – even if it makes others uncomfortable. His verbal confrontations put him in situations that have consequences and Washington’s performance brings each on head-to-head on a level that can be dizzying.
Farrell as George wants to do the right thing by Roman but at times you get the feeling he is doing it for his own financial gain. The thing about Farrell is that he has this amazing ability to give us a character that might be a little bit douchey but the performance is worth it. A sharped dressed lawyer seems to suit Farrell and it must be said the women around me had no problem with looking at him.
Ejogo as Maya is a little surprised by Roman’s behavior yet there is something uniquely honest that draws her. They both try to understand one another yet there is still a thin line of disconnect. Jackson as Amanda knows that Roman is an important part of her father’s work and tries to be understanding when Roman has to deal with death.
Other cast includes Lynda Gravatt as Vernita Wells, Hugo Armstrong as Fritz Molinar, Sam Gilroy as Connor Novick, Amari Cheatom as Carter Johnson, Nazneen Contractor as Melina Nassour and Tony Plana as Jessie Salinas.
“Roman J. Israel, Esq.” is a film that deals with several issues of law and the criminal court system. The character of Roman is definitely set in his ways and doesn’t suffer fools. When he feels that the system isn’t fair and those who claim to defend the helpless are not doing just that, Roman strays and Washington takes him to levels that are questionable yet riveting.
Of course, this film will be a hard sell I think because the way the character speaks might be just a tad much. I will be honest and say my head was spinning at certain points and the story is fairly predictable as well.
Director Gilroy is sort of a hit and miss for me because I absolutely love the 2014 film Nightcrawler and theatergoers went crazy for Kong: Skull Island. Then there is a lull with other films so I wouldn’t mind having a conversation with him about it all.
In the end – all rise!