DVD Review: Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Over the last thirty years or so, there have been few, if any, more distinctive and consistently impressive actors as Denzel Washington. In the extremely white playing field that is the Hollywood ‘A’ list, he has often been the only recognisable African-American voice. Whilst he has a raft of charismatic and powerful performances behind him, it’s probably roles in Malcolm X, Remember the Titans, Fences and Training Day for which he’s best known. Denzel delivers another exceptional performance in Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Roman J. Israel (Washington) works as a lawyer and an activist in a small law firm in LA. However, Israel is uncomfortable with public speaking. Whilst he does all the background work, the owner and senior partner William Jackson is the figurehead. When Jackson suddenly has a heart attack, he finds himself all at sea. Israel tries to stick to his principles, building up a relationship with a local activist (Carmen Ejogo), but when a hotshot young lawyer (Colin Farrell) is brought into the practice he has to decide between ethics and survival.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. is an intense and intricate drama which allows Denzel the leeway and latitude to shine. Indeed, director Dan Gilroy gives his free reign to put his own unique stamp on the character. Denzel was rewarded for his efforts with an Oscar nomination. In the end, Israel is faced with a life-changing choice, and there’s only so much a man can take before he’s peering over the precipice. Whilst, at times, Roman J. Israel, Esq. can feel slightly unhinged, it’s an impressive character study and ethical drama.

Bonus material:

  • Eight Deleted Scenes
  • Three Featurettes
  • “Denzel Washington: Becoming Roman”
  • “The Making of Roman J. Israel, ESQ.”
  • “Colin Farrell: Discovering George”

Roman J. Israel, Esq. is released on DVD by Sony Pictures UK on 11 June.

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