Roman J. Israel, Esq. Review

Updated on December 25, 2017
Ross Tanenbaum profile image

Ross is a student at the University of Maryland. He is planning on majoring in Film Studies and English.

A Great Performance from Denzel Washington Carries this Legal Drama


Denzel Washington is one of the greatest actors of all time. He has an innate ability to transform into the characters he is portraying. He is able to give each character their own distinct personalities, without making them seem over the top. This is a film that definitely shows how great Washington is as an actor, but doesn't really do much else.


Washington plays Roman J. Israel, Esq., a lawyer with a very strict moral compass when it comes to the law. He is very determined in the way that he carries out his job. Even if someone offers him a good job with a lot of money, he will decline it if he can't do things the way he wants to. However, after one break from his moral standards, he faces consequences that he may not be able to come back from.


Like I said earlier, Washington is fantastic in this movie. He did a great job at making this character likable, even though he was a bit strange. He has a bunch of quirks that make him seem very awkward, but unique. This character is very old fashioned in almost everything he does. The way he dresses, the way he does his job, even the way he eats. He is an intelligent character, but he wants to go back to the way that law used to be. He thinks the current criminal justice system is unfair and he is trying to go against it. He actually does have a reasonable perspective on how things are currently done.

Colin Farrell is also really good. He plays a rich, successful lawyer who recruits Israel for his large lawfirm. Him and Israel clearly have different ideas on how to be a lawyer and I think they play off one another well. They have good chemistry with one another throughout the film. Carmen Ejogo plays a civil rights activist who befriends Israel. I thought she was good, but her character doesn't really do much in the movie.


There really isn't anything special about Dan Gilroy's direction of this movie. It's not bad, it's just that there isn't anything distinct that he really does. I think anybody could have directed this movie and it would've been the same.

I do think that this films main problem is that is very inconsistent with its tone. It'll go from being a legal drama to a crime thriller really quickly. The film has a poor sense of identity which makes the film seem a little bit less fluid. The film is also a bit too long. I think about 20 minutes could have been shaved off.

I think the story for this movie is interesting, but for some reason I never felt fully invested in it. Anytime it got captivating, something else would happen that would make me lose interest. This could be due to the shifting tone that is present throughout the movie.

Final Thoughts

This movie had a lot of potential, but there is definitely something missing in this movie. While it does feature good performances, the film just doesn't know what it wants to be. It jumps around between too many genres. If you decide to watch this, I think you can still find some entertainment out of it. However, I can't see this movie being remembered for very long.

Rating: 6.5/10


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