Denzel Washington stars as Roman Israel, a driven, idealistic defense attorney who, through a tumultuous series of events, finds himself in a crisis that leads to extreme action.
In the role as a legal underdog, Denzel Washington as Defense Attorney Roman J. Israel shows us the epitome of depth of character. As a behind-the-scenes legal prodigy who has been the little-known foundation of a two-man team, Roman is suddenly blindsided when his front man and Civil Rights mentor goes into a coma and is no longer capable of running the partnership. With his impending death looming and without any collaboration with Roman, his partner’s daughter makes a decision to bring in a highly recommended replacement, George Pierce (Colin Farrell), in order to tie up loose ends and shut the business down. Unbeknownst to Roman, the business has been a failure for many years and the family has opted to stop sharing the financial burden to keep it afloat. Pierce, who steps in to take over, thinks it will be a breeze to push the professionally and socially inept Roman out the door. He is immediately taken aback when he learns that Roman has followed his entire legal career and doesn’t bite his tongue when expressing his disdain for his overbearing legal style that has taken full advantage of the disenfranchised.
When Pierce learns that Esquire would have value to him by working in his office, he tries to recruit him with the promise that he can double his pay and increase his exposure to the limelight. A disturbing chain of events occur when Israel partners up with Pierce as well as with a younger Civil Rights activist who admires his work ethic and his ability to maintain a strong belief system in spite of the corrupted environment that he thrives in. Israel, who has struggled his entire life to be as competent socially as he is with his legal research and expertise, has a clash with morality when he gets caught up in a case where he obtains privileged information and exchanges it for a big payout for turning in a corrupt criminal. With a career crisis at the forefront and a death wish on his back, Pierce becomes entangled in his own legal nightmare that ultimately causes him to become the defendant and plaintiff in his own case and like everything he’s ever done, he pretty much knows how it is going to turn out.
Once again, Denzel Washington is on top of his game with the characterization of this bassackwards lawyer who is his own worst enemy. Gaining forty pounds for the role not only made him a heavyweight physically but capturing all the idiosyncrasies of this socially-inadequate genius, gives power to the entire film. Additionally, Colin Farrell and Carmen Ejogo are excellent in their roles which gives introspective balance and meaning to the underlying theme of power versus might. Director Dan Gilroy, known for his “Nightcrawler” status, can rest assured that his confidence in giving his actors full reign over their roles is definitely a winning combination for success. The entire crew deserves props for making this film, at every angle and in every element, a production that keeps the audience thoroughly entertained.
In theaters Wednesday, November 22nd