A Review of Roman J. Israel, Esq.

A Review of Roman J. Israel, Esq.  3 Pineapples 

November 24, 2017

By Craig Chambers,  author of F-ck You, Your Honor

My first movie review! I chose this movie because it’s about a lawyer, and it’s different and more character-based than a typical Grisham. I can’t give it a star rating — stars have been taken — or a tomato rating — used before also.

I’ll give it a rating of three Pineapples, before all the fruits and vegetables are taken.

In the movie, Denzel Washington plays a lawyer displaced by the death of his litigation partner, a famous civil rights leader. Roman was the researcher and brief-writer for the firm.  The death of his partner results in the firm’s dissolution,  and Roman, ill-equipped socially or economically to start his own firm, works for a larger, more commercial firm which is more interested in making money than in changing the laws.

I give Denzel Washington two Pineapples because of his acting. He’s a great actor, and charismatic, as we saw in Remember the Titans; Coach Boone had to really dumb it down to play the sad, pathetic, mouse known as Roman J. Israel.

Roman Esq is  a sort of romantic recluse, socially inept and unable to function outside of the life he was accustomed to at the small firm. These types of people are drummed out of law school or resigned to the job of a paralegal. Law school was filled with nasty A-type personalities (people I now call “my friends”) and while not all lawyers are litigators, those who are not know themselves well enough to never step foot in a courtroom.  

I give the movie a third Pineapple because the practice of law for Roman is mundane, tedious and unsatisfying, which is largely how the practice is.

As  a movie-goer, I didn’t like the main character. Although he had an admirable and romantic view of the law, I didn’t sympathize with him, I mostly felt sorry for him. Sometimes these types of movies are helped with humor. Little or none of that in this movie. As a novelist and short-story writer, I thought the plot got lost in the details on the practice.  

At some point in the movie, Roman  breaks a serious legal Rule, which results in a downward spiral for Roman.The Rule he broke — which I will not explain so as not to spoil the movie — this scholarly character wouldn’t have broken without more (or some) rumination and self-reflection. I spent great lengths to make sure my novel, F-ck you, Your Honor, was legally correct. I showed it a really experienced criminal attorney as well as a family law lawyer. Denzel didn’t do that.

The Rule he broke in the movie would have resulted in disbarment, not in criminal prosecution.  You’d think with all the money they spend on making the movie,  they could spare an hour or two to run central legal issues to the story by a practicing attorney.

Sorry to say, when I see obvious legal errors in a movie,  it ruins the movie for me. 

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