Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a solid film, starring Denzel Washington as the title character, who is a lawyer who struggles from right and wrong. Of course, Denzel turns in a spectacular performance that is nuanced and detailed, so much so, that you no longer see the actor but rather the character here. Unfortunately, the director has allowed this performance to upstage every other character and plot point in the film. The video and audio presentations are both excellent and the supplements offer some good insight on the characters and tone of the film. Recommended!
Denzel Washington is one of the best actors to ever grace the big screen. Whenever he's given a role and he commits, the character comes alive in a way that we no longer see Denzel, only the character he's playing. The same goes for his newest film Roman J. Israel, Esq., which is directed by Dan Gilroy, who gave us the amazing Nightcrawler film a couple of years ago. The film itself is meaningful, tragic, and well done, however there is a fatal flaw at play here. Gilroy must have been so enthralled with Denzel's performance, as we all are in every film he makes, that the character of Roman is set center stage at all times with his struggles and transformations that every other character and plot is thrown by the wayside. I don't know if that was the intended purpose, but that's how it comes off. Just a one-man show starring Denzel Washington. Luckily I'm a big fan of that show, but it's unfortunate that the movie as a whole suffers from putting the spotlight on this character for too much of the film.
The title character Roman J. Israel Esq. is a lawyer in a two man law firm, where Roman is the guy behind the guy. He never goes to court, but does all the research for the clients. He's an encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to the law and is like Rain Man when it comes to court cases and every statute of the law. Israel also has a heart of gold in that he gives his clients a lot of personal attention and strives for a good justice system and not just to get rich and abandon his ethics and morals.
These idiosyncrasies cause his social life to drop, but he's in for the greater good, so to speak. Turns out, his law partner has a heart attack, where Roman is set to step into the role, but is offered a bigger job at a larger firm, run by Colin Farrell, who is the opposite of Roman's ways of thinking. Reluctantly, Roman accepts the position, but the transition isn't easy for everyone. From here, Roman falls into the luxury of big lawyer life, which is something he's always hated. With a looming murder trial coming up, Roman must figure out the type of human and lawyer he wants to be, which is someone who gets rich quick at trial and doesn't care for the clients, or someone who wants to change the judicial system for the betterment of everyone.
It's a struggle that Denzel Washington perfectly displays throughout the film, which is so intense, that I felt bonded to the character. He truly gives an amazing performance, but it overshadows, or at least the director allows everything else in the film to be overshadowed by, his amazing performance. Roman J. Israel Esq. is a good movie, but loses itself along the way from time to time.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Roman J. Israel Esq. comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Sony. There is an insert for a digital download included. The disc is housed in a hard plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
Roman J. Israel, Esq. comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This image looks simply excellent and is quite filmic throughout. For being a dramatic film without big action sequences, the image is stunning in each scene. Colors are natural and vibrant in the many locales here. From the dank prison set up to the swanky skyscraper offices to night time restaurants, every color is well balanced and stands out strong. The colorful suits and ties that Denzel and Colin wear throughout really shine over everything else.
Background settings look just as good, offering crisp and deep colors without being to overwhelming. The filmic quality goes a long way too, which never allows this film to look over-digitized. Detail is sharp and vivid as well, with every hair on Denzel's head being shown easily as well as the high end suit's stitching and threads popping up in every scene. Buildings in wider shots also show great detail here as well. Black levels are always deep and inky with zero evidence of crush and the skin tones are always natural. There are no issues with banding, aliasing, or video noise here, leaving this image with top marks.
This release comes with a very good lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and it is a pleasure to listen to. No, this isn't a big action film, but the track is still well-managed, loud and full immersion from all of the sound effects. There are many scenes that take place in big rooms with a lot of people, which the surround and rear speakers pick up all of their chatter, footsteps, and yells. It really puts you in the center of each sequence, which is something you don't often see in these courtroom drama films.
Other sound effects at restaurants, vehicles driving by, and helicopters flying over head, all offer an impactful low end with solid bass that is never over-bearing. The directionality of voices in the courtroom and offices are all excellent and provide the natural reverb and echo when needed. The score always adds to the suspenseful and dramatic moments, and the dialogue is clear and easy to follow along with, free of pops, cracks, and hiss.
Denzel Washington: Becoming Roman (HD, 6 Mins.) - This features interviews that focuses on Denzel as an actor and his character. The script and working with Denzel is touched on, too.
The Making of Roman J. Israel, Esq. (HD, 11 Mins.) - This discusses the themes of the film, the cast, shooting some of the bigger scenes, and the work of the cinematographer Robert Elswit. This is more EPK type of fluff.
Colin Farrell: Discovering George (HD, 5 Mins.) - This is like the Denzel supplement above, but focuses on Colin Farrell and his character.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 12 Mins.) - There are eight deleted scenes in total, which give more insight and development to Roman.
Roman J. Israel, Esq. delivers another excellent performance from Denzel Washington who you can't help but relate to and bond with over the course of the film. This film touches on a lot of emotions and never does so in a cheesy way. It's just that Washington's performance is so good, that the director chose to focus on that solely, rather than any other part of the story. Luckily, I'm a big Denzel Washington fan. The video and audio presentations are both great and the extras are informative. Recommended!