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Leslie's Movie Reviews (27)

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Roman J Israel, Esq. 
When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do
3/4 stars

"Roman J. Israel, Esq." explores the inner struggle of an activist, tempted by the appeal of the high life. Roman (Denzel Washington) is part of a two-man legal firm and is thrust into the lead role once the founder is medically incapacitated. Roman is used to doing all of the work behind the scenes and has a rough go of it when he is asked to represent his firm’s clients in court. He draws contempt of court fines by judges and a barrage of foul worded insults from a newbie activist. His suits are eyesores in comparison to the apropos fashion of the day, and his instincts and insights into social justice are just as old-fashioned. And when one of Roman’s ill advised legal maneuvers as a newly retained lawyer for George Pierce’s (Colin Farrell) firm backfires on him, he makes an even costlier mistake.

Roman J. Israel is arguably the most unique character Denzel Washington has created on screen. At times, it is downright painful to watch the amount of pure awkwardness Washington infuses into Roman. All of his weird tics, mannerisms, and incongruity add up over time, scene after scene, to the point where all you can do is try to turn your head right before the train wrecks. It is fascinating to view. This, incorporated with impressive cinematography by Robert Elswit highlighted by a scene featuring an ominous sky-to-alley descending shot, make "Roman J. Israel, Esq." worth seeing. Carmen Ejogo is a joy watch.


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