ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ – A Review by Hollywood Hernandez
Roman J. Israel, ESQ, starring Denzel Washington is out now in limited release and it is already receiving rave reviews from movie critics. It's also been nominated for two NAACP Image Awards (Best Picture and Best Actor). It looks like it will be another contender for Washington come Oscar time.
The movie does however suffer from a lack of availability at movie theaters. It's currently showing on just about 1,600 screens nationwide while a movie such as Justice League, in wide release, is showing in about 4,000 movie theaters. So it will take a bit of looking to find the movie at your local Cineplex, but it will be well worth your effort.
In the movie, Denzel plays the title character, Roman J. Israel, ESQ. He is an idealistic lawyer who has the luxury of hanging onto his civil rights era beliefs since he doesn't try cases. His partner had been the litigation lawyer for the two man law firm, allowing Roman to work on court briefs back in the office, while never stepping into a courtroom. That all changes when his partner suffers a stroke and is hanging on to life in a hospital on life support.
That's when Denzel's quirky, almost autistic, character traits come into play. First he loses his job in the law firm as the heirs of his partner start to plan for his impending passing. Now, Roman J. Israel, ESQ. needs to make a living so he takes a job in a huge law firm that's headed by his partner's college protégée (played very slickly by Colin Farrell).
Denzel plays a fish out of water with his odd behavior and his inability to grasp the concept of subtlety. He speaks his mind when he shouldn't and even his style of hair and dress is out of place in a modern corporate law firm.
He tries to hang on to his core values by volunteering at a community center working with teens. That's where he meets Maya, played by actress Carmen Ejogo. She becomes his mentee and the two soon become more than friends. She worships him for his values and the struggles he's been through as a advocate for civil rights.
Eventually Roman makes some mistakes in his dealings with lawyers and clients. He shows that he's human and has to give up on some of his principles and ideals in order to survive. He ends up being chased by criminals, after he betrays a client who's in jail, and his world is turned upside down by his mistakes. In the end he tries to make amends for his mistakes and ends up inspiring others by his attempt to make good on the error of his ways.
Roman J. Israel, ESQ is a terrible title for a movie, but it's another winner for Oscar winner Denzel Washington. The movie is rated PG-13 and runs just over 2 hours. On my "Hollywood Popcorn Scale" Roman J. Israel, ESQ gets my highest rating; a JUMBO (with extra butter).