Critic Reviews



Based on 37 critic reviews provided by
Fiercely intelligent and deeply suspenseful, Roman J. Israel, Esq. is an absorbing morality tale from writer/director Dan Gilroy, and boasts one of Denzel Washington’s finest performances.
Roman J. Israel, Esq. might not be the courtroom drama fans have been expecting. Instead, it’s a character study filled with insight and originality.
Even in the film’s less successful moments, I admired the loose shagginess of it all.
This is a formula movie but Gilroy is no hack. He hits the expected beats but with more color and depth than you expect.
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Gilroy has fashioned a character study that has moments that are incredibly well written.... What’s extremely disappointing is that the screenplay’s through line is simply not that interesting.
The plot finds loopholes as it rambles ahead semi-plausibly to its conclusion. Audiences will no doubt applaud this entertaining film, but the case is under appeal.
Unfortunately, something at the center just doesn’t hold, and it flies apart over the course of 133 minutes into confusing shards of plot, legalese-heavy monologues and, perhaps most surprising of all given Gilroy’s bona fides, a touch of soggy sentimentality in the home stretch.
Denzel Washington gives a terrifically off-kilter performance in Roman J. Israel, Esq., a fascinating and flawed character study that frustratingly can’t meld all its ambitions into a coherent and satisfying whole.
It leaves us with a character you won’t soon forget, but you wish that the movie were as haunting as he is.
Rather than developing Roman’s conundrum, Roman J. Israel, Esq. settles for a prosaic character study laid out in painfully obvious terms, with a tacked-on twist in the third act just so that the story can find some way to end.

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