Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Thriller • PG-13 • Directed by: Dan Gilroy • 122 minutes

Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a dramatic thriller set in the overburdened Los Angeles criminal court system. Denzel Washington stars as a driven, idealistic defense attorney whose life is disrupted 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.

Viewer reviews

Very badly directed
★★★★
I could not believe Denzel Washington was in such a bad movie. — David Chavarriaga

Great
★★★★★
Five stars for Denzel Washington Great actor but lousy movie. — Greek Woman

Great Movie & Story
★★★★★
This movie is great and so well written casted and performed. I'll never understand our rating system... — Aeowns

Important, well acted
★★★★★
Roman: "Ah, well, first notwithstanding, I don’t know if I could do this much longer, progressive lawyering, [...] If I was freed from the criminal work, I can get back to my roots; the bigger battles, mass actions, supported by sweeping legal challenges. With my skill…and experience, I am quite certain I can get this organization right back in line with its core beliefs. M: (nervous laugh) This organization? R: Yeah. M: I wasn’t aware that we, um, had strayed… R: I’m not talking about nickel-and-dime reformism. I’m talking about igniting a sustained mass movement supported by rule change and injunctive relief. and ah, I can get results using class action tactics. I’m talking about a return to using activist litigation, creatively, defensively, counter offensively. --- R: I think you brought me in to put your feet to the fire, ‘cuz you’re tired of treating low income clients like dollar signs, and because maybe you remember what it feels like to actually care, that’s what I think, George. G: Well, no I hired you to make a buck, which is why I thought you took the job. R: I need money. (laughs) badly, of course, but what I really need George is an ally. I’ve been waiting to meet someone of your high caliber, and yes, I am selective. So what I am offering to you…right out here, now, is the chance to partner with me on a piece of ground breaking litigation that I’ve been working on for over seven years now. (slides briefcase forward)…Inside this case is arguably the most important legal brief in modern legal history. A sweeping Federal challenge that could yield nothing less than a grand new era of social reform…and i say that with all due competence. The Constitution guarantees us a right to a fair trial, but there can’t be any fairness if 95 percent of all cases never get heard…criminal cases never get heard by a jury or a judge. I am bringing a wholly original class action lawsuit with over 3500 names—all former clients—aimed at the heart of plea bargain reform. I’m talking about reforming a system where prosecutors are trying to pull sentences out of their hat while actual guilt or innocence is being replaced by fear of having your day in court. Where people are being forced, George, to plead guilty under the threat of overly harsh and coercive sentences. It’s a job for a legend..or someone who wants to be one… Let me tell you about it George. G: No, no, no…Jesus, just stop..Roman, enough! R: Not speaking out…is ordinary. We’re agents of change, George, each one of us. I don’t have the resources to finish this on my own, but with your assistance, I’m more than certain that we can finish this and file it together; partners on a landmark class-action suit that’s on precedence and procedure and actual proof…weight of proof. I’m sure of it, George. ----- It was a joy to see a story about a principled person motivated to make a difference with their career...working to resolve conscience against backdrop of financial need. Recommended. Denzel Washington inspires. — RayMacD

Amazingly thought provoking!!
★★★★★
Stellar performance. Beautiful life quotes to ponder. Heart wrenching. I felt that it was personally very inspiring as well. — 1Sage23

Sidney Lumet would’ve loved it
★★★★★
I love both Dan and Tony Gilroy’s work and this one stands among their best. A very worthy film in the mold of The Verdict and Michael Clayton. It misses the punch a bit in some places but it’s such a different film and so incredibly well acted that I don’t care. If you like this type of film, forget the critics - this one is smart and a great film for the moment. — boyoboyitsfun

Great movie
★★★★★
This was movie was great, a incredible story. Denzel is amazing in this movie what great acting. Should receive academy award for such superb acting. If you know anything about great movies you would agree this is a 5 star movie!!!!!! — Nowannasin

Glad I bought it
★★★★
Not as good as it could have been but not as terrible as reviews made it out to be. I enjoyed it and it made an impact. — thebestnicknameEVR

Profound, Hidden Truths
★★★★★
This review won’t contain any spoilers, but I will share in it what I believe this movie tries to say on a deeper psychological level. Perhaps it might help you to watch this movie knowing this interpretation. But first, let me address some of the other negative reviews: clearly, this movie isn’t for people who want Hollywood-style sex, action, and fancy CGI. Instead, it’s a thrilling story of one man’s battle with himself. When viewed through this lens, it becomes at once a fascinating portrayal of various psychological mechanisms and their resulting effects in a person’s life. It is a story of a man who had dedicated his entire working life to the cause of legal activism, but at a great cost to himself in the form of sustained poverty, the lack of a family, and the lack of overall life satisfaction. Things were all hunky-dory and Roman J. Israel, Esq. was plugging along as he always had until his 35-year long career suddenly got upended and he found himself in new territory. That’s when, eventually, his repressed self came out, and he did a 180º: the things he had previously pushed away for so long—especially the money—now held a special attraction to him… so much so that he was actually willing to significantly compromise his own integrity in the pursuit of it. Finally, Roman J. Israel, Esq. realized what he needed to do to right his integrity. In this way, the movie to me is especially a study on the nature of integrity. Through watching this movie I realized a more profound aspect of what it means to have integrity: integrity not only means “to do the right thing” (and to not do the wrong thing), but it especially means to live one’s life “wholeheartedly”, that is, with all the different parts of oneself in unison. So rather than suppressing humanly desires (e.g. for money, for fun, etc.), it’s important to keep them all in balance and in harmony. — heyMartinAdams

A Rare Miss
★★★★★
Denzel Washington is perhaps the best actor alive in many characters and scenarios. But this attempt at creating an oddball quirky lawyer is just really bad. I live in LA and the scenes and stories from this city are somehow not a fit. I will always take a view of any film with Mr. Washington in the cast. This one was tough. But my perspective is surrounded by many who will find deeper meaning. — majorthomas

Snuffed out
★★★★★
The ending! Come on! Such a good movie too... — Musicforeverforlife

Powerful Story
★★★★★
Powerful movie chronicling the challenges & rewards of following one’s moral compass. — D. Bartee

Just stupid
★★★★
Moneygrab, that's all this was, they were just trying to see what kind of half baked garbage they could sell with Denzel's name on it. BOOOOOOOoooo — Timmy Night Light

A long slow train without a station
★★★★
For the slightly endearing aspergers behavior the character exhibits -- there really is nothing interesting to speak of -- and in the end wonder why we should care about the narrative or the chracters — Preacher25

Roman J. Israel, ESQ.
★★★★
A masterpiece of a movie, written especially for Denzel Washington and he delivers. Denzel Washington transforms in a way in which no one has seen prior to this film. I was magnetized to the screen, I couldn’t turn away. Wonderful written and and brilliantly performed. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, I’m happy that I purchased it. If you’re a fan of excellent cinema, this film is a must see. If you’re a Denzel Washington fan, this film is a MUST SEE. 👍🏾👍🏾 way up. — YTElliott

Great movie with historical value!
★★★★★
Denzel is master artist and pulls you into the life of Roman. The story and directing take you for a ride, and the lesson learned along the way is classic! A must watch and glad I made the purchase! — Realblog

Denzel is superb
★★★★
This is a good movie. Denzel completely embodies the character. He plays a character on the autism spectrum so well and quickly endears himself to the viewer. I laughed and I cried at points in this movie. Colin Farrell was very good as were the suppoting cast. I enjoyed it very much. — Maximum Eve

Slow, Methodical
★★★★★
This was an ok at best movie. Acting was great. Denzel was sensational. My problem is the story. There were so many good directions that this film could have gone but instead chose this slow moving drama. — orangeblood12c

Stick Around - Cream Rises to the Top
★★★★★
Critics split on this opus of an indictment of the legal system and its need for drastic reform in the era of mass plea bargaining in utter violation of human and civil rights. Denzel thunders not with the bark of a bulldog, but the roar of a lion, and Gilroy's script lacerates the US legal system while providing a concise and momentous, but simple solution: transform it through civil litigatious reformation to dismantle the crimes done in the name of justice through the criminal court system via plea bargaining along with the de facto dismembering of the right to go to trial simply because the financial cost is beyond working families' means. The film couldn't be more timely, yet still so long overdue. Roman's solution rewards much thinking, the solution being his big secret case and who he indicts. Customers' Reviews that the makers don't know what they're doing and the plagiarized cliche that watching paint dry is more entertaining taste exponentially stale, reminding of how borrowed and tired the cliche was even before it left the fingertips of the pathetic critic. Superbad deserves cleverer criticism than that comatose cliche, and Roman J. Israel, Esq. is profoundly more superbad than Superbad ever dreamed. For Gilroy and others involved to have come up with such a strong premise and drama about this utterly vital issue and the lawyers, law firms, teams and entire league of the US criminal defense system is extraordinary. The attack on criminal prosecution law likewise. The movie certainly is not Speed or Ragnarok, but what it lacks for empty, titillating action, it methodically makes up for intensity of thought and relevance. The drama may not be a real pot-boiler, but the audiences will catch up with this film and realize these folks really DO know what they are doing and saying. There is enough drama and twist here and we are closer to Pontecorvo or De Sica than to Robert Towne or James Patterson. Thus, we need to admit that if it goes over our heads, we must take things slowly, and have more dialogue about it. The fault is in ourselves, not our stars, to correct John Greene's misappropriation of Cassius' instruction to Brutus; and though Cassius' solution to inequality is really only a monstrous, murderous cover for jealousy, the means to end the tyranny of evil can only be in our own, humanity's, hands. — professordragonfly

Vintage Washington
★★★★★
Brilliant movie. Anyone that gives this movie less than 5 stars should be investigated. — Ilu1

Rather Watch Paint Dry
★★★★
1. Buy a can of paint or get an old one from the garage 2. Paint a wall 3. Watch it dry Watching paint dry will be more entertaining than watching Denzil Washington in this film — Scolded Society

Just admit you have no idea what your doing
★★★★
Complete amateur hour — Altavelocidad

Love
★★★★★
I loved this film ... Washington at his finest — Chelle hells