Roman J. Israel, Esq. - What You Need To Know
A new film from the director behind Nightcrawler examines the underbelly of America's criminal justice system and tells the story of a man struggling with his grip on his moral convictions. Roman J. Israel, Esq. arrived in UK cinemas in February and on Monday (June 11th) the film makes its arrival in stores. Here's everything you need to know...
Who's in it?
Denzel Washington stars alongside a cats that includes Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Amari Cheatom and Shelly Henning.
And who's directing?
Dan Gilroy, best-known as the director of Nightcrawler and the screenwriter behind films including The Bourne Legacy and Kong: Skull Island, is the one calling the shots here, working from a self-penned script.
What's the plot?
Washington stars as the titular protagonist Roman J. Israel, a lawyer and former activist working at a small law form in Los Angeles, where his often abrupt manner and lack of people skills are compensated for by a sharp mind, a near-photographic memory and an innate sense of justice. Never a natural in the courtroom due to his habit of rubbing judges the wrong way, Israel's role in the law firm is nevertheless a crucial one, providing case briefs and memos for the firm's senior partner, William Jackson. Aside from his day-to-day work at the firm, Israel is also working on a brief around plea-bargaining deals and the way they prohibit cases coming to trial – a brief he believes could shake up the entire legal system.
When Jackson suffers a heart attack which leaves him in a coma, Jackson's niece informs Israel that the firm is bankrupt and that, despite Israel's offer to run the firm in his absence, Jackson's succession plan involves control of the firm to another lawyer, George Pierce (Farrell). Pierce intends to close the struggling firm down and offers Israel a job at his own company, which Israel initially refuses, believing Pierce to be greedy and self-interested. In the course of searching for a new job he meets attends an interview where he meets Maya (Ejogo), the head of an activist network. He doesn't get the job, but knowing his past as an activist of some note, Maya invites him to speak at a meeting she is organising. However, he is viewed by those attending as something of a dinosaur, out of step with current attitudes.
Unable to find work elsewhere, Israel reluctantly accepts Piece's job offer an pitches his plea-bargaining brief to his new boss, but is instead assigned to several other cases including the murder trial of a young man named Ellerbe, who insists he is innocent and knows the identity of the case's real killer, an ex-convict named Carter Johnson (Carter Johnson). Behind Pierce's back, Israel attempts to negotiate a plea deal for Ellerbe, but his attempts fail and Ellerbe is killed before his case comes to trial. When Israel is mugged on his way home by a homeless man, something in him snaps; disillusioned with trying to help people who don't appreciate him, Israel anonymously calls the family of Jonson's victim, who are offering a $100,000 reward, and claims the cash in exchange for Johnson's location and information that can secure his conviction.
Johnson is subsequently incarcerated, but finds out that Israel provided the information that put him in prison and begins to blackmail him, threatening to take Israel down with him.
Does it deliver?
Washington puts in predictably impressive performance in the lead role, earning himself a string of award nominations at the Oscars, the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild, and indeed it's a performance that really propels Gilroy's film. The story itself is meandering at times but the performances from its cast make this a compelling watch. You can find a trailer below...
Roman J. Israel, Esq. is available in hmv stores from Monday June 11th - you can also find it here in our online store...