Mr. Gilroy’s new film doesn’t try for lean. When its lawyer hero isn’t citing legal precedent, he uses spectacularly florid language that reflects his unusual mental state. But there’s a disconnect between what we see and hear and what we’re meant to feel.
Unfortunately, something at the center just doesn’t hold, and it flies apart over the course of 133 minutes into confusing shards of plot, legalese-heavy monologues and, perhaps most surprising of all given Gilroy’s bona fides, a touch of soggy sentimentality in the home stretch.
Denzel Washington gives a terrifically off-kilter performance in Roman J. Israel, Esq., a fascinating and flawed character study that frustratingly can’t meld all its ambitions into a coherent and satisfying whole.
Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a dramatic thriller set in the underbelly of the overburdened Los Angeles criminal court system. Denzel Washington stars as a driven, idealistic defense attorney whose life is upended when a turbulent series of events challenge the activism that has defined his career. Colin Farrell costars as the ambitious, monied lawyer who recruits Roman to his firm.
Did You Know?
In Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017) there's a visible gap between Denzel Washington's two front teeth that he hasn't sported since high school. Washington fixed the gap between his front teeth sometime after high school, but for this role the actor removed his dental caps again.