Roman J. Israel, Esq. evokes laughs and thought


Oliver Davey, Staff Writer

Roman J. Israel Esq. is a PG-13 crime movie/thriller that tells the story of Roman J. Israel Esq. an enigmatic, eccentric activist and criminal defense lawyer in the Los Angeles court system. It stars Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell, and Carmen Ejogo and was written and produced by Dan Gilroy.

Israel, who is  played by Washington, works in a two partner law firm, working behind the scenes to help fund his partner, a famous criminal defense lawyer and activist. When his partner dies, Israel sees himself out of a job and low on money.

He ends up at a more corporate firm run by George Peirce (Colin Farrell) who Israel accused of kicking him and his partner cases he knew he would lose. Despite this, Peirce sees the legal genius of Israel even with his mysterious and awkward ways.

Israel also tries to keep his activism going with the help of a local women Maya Alston (Carmen Ejogo). He struggles with this though, as his ideas about his purpose waver in the face of negativity.

As he goes through the movie, he struggles with his ideals, his regrets, and the consequences of his actions. Even though this, he has many humorous moments just interacting with people in daily life which were some of my favorite points of the movie. These humorous moments make him a character hard to root against.  

I thought in the movie Washington was fantastic. His acting along with Gilroy’s directing created a many faceted character that will make watchers think deeply about themselves and the values they hold close.

Gilroy is used to movies about Los Angeles crime, having directed the award winning film Nightcrawler. His directing and Washington’s acting created some powerful scenes that to expose to viewers how hard it can be for activists and lawyers fighting for the little guy.

Music by James Newton Howard in the movie also added to the scenes and felt well thought out and planned for each scene.

I did however have a few problems with the movie. I felt as though the development of Israel took such center stage that the other stars did not get much development.

For the first hour and a half of the movie it is almost all Israel, and the viewer does not see much of Peirce or Alston. Farrell and Ejogo gave solid performances but it is hard for the viewer to appreciate their characters when they are only of real importance towards the end of the movie.

In addition, I felt there were a few unneeded scenes that could have been cut from the movie. They did not really add much to the plot and I could feel the crowd getting antsy as they happened. The movie was also two hours and nine minutes long which could have been cut down a bit by removing some of those scenes.

However, it is definitely a movie to watch this winter, as it deals with many of the problems today’s society faces and definitely cause deep thinking for one’s values and what they should do with them.