Entertainment » Movies

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

by Derek Deskins
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Feb 13, 2018
Roman J. Israel, Esq.

When Dan Gilroy made his directorial debut with 2014's "Nightcrawler" he wasn't exactly a newcomer to Hollywood. The longtime screenwriter had more than his fair share of credits, although few stood out as anything spectacular (Tarsem Singh's "The Fall" may be the one outlier, although the writing isn't usually where that film receives praise). But in "Nightcrawler," Gilroy showed his strength not only as a screenwriter, but as a director that was able to craft a dark and visually interesting film bolstered by a fantastic central performance. His second film, "Roman J. Israel, Esq." isn't of the same caliber.

Roman Israel is a great lawyer, but he is terrible with people. That has worked just fine for the past three decades, as the setup at the practice he shares with William Henry Jackson allows for him to stay comfortably behind the curtain. But when Jackson suffers a heart attack, Roman is forced into the spotlight, where his matter-of-fact approach and difficulty with social norms quickly reveal themselves. He is begrudgingly accepted at the much larger law firm of George Pierce. Now Roman is in the odd position: does he hold onto his activist ideals or sell out?

At this point, I think we can all spot Oscar bait from a good distance. When flicks like "The Post" or "The Darkest Hour" roll around, we know it's for awards and to showcase the actors that we love. Most of the time, these kind of movies aren't bad, but they aren't all that great either. "Roman J. Israel, Esq." is an Oscar bait movie that has trouble even achieving that "not so great" level of filmmaking. Yes, the film stars Denzel Washington and he gets a role that would appear to be perfectly suited to his talents, but the film is so twisted up and full of itself, that it never really earns the actor's talents.

The biggest issue is that everything is presented as so concrete. Roman is either a lawyer on the side of human rights or he is a complete sellout. There is no middle ground. And while Gilroy writes the character with the veneer of depth, in actuality, Roman is as shallow as every other character that flits by the camera. The Blu-ray release doesn't bring a whole lot to the table, filling out with three moderately-sized to small featurettes that don't add much of note to the film. Overall, "Roman J. Israel, Esq." never amounts to anything worth your time, despite its bevy of potential. It's the type of film that spends so much time convincing you that it has something to say, without ever, you know, actually saying it.

"Roman J. Israel, Esq."


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook