Bro-Reviews: Roman J. Israel, Esq.

An unfocused narrative paired with a tour de force in acting.

Denzel Washington is as accomplished an actor there is in Hollywood. Whether you are a film buff or not, you can identify Mr. Washington easily, particularly by only saying his iconic first name, Denzel. One would think at this point in his illustrious career he may be slowing down, but past awards worthy roles in 2007’s American Gangster, 2012’s Flight, and 2016’s Fences prove he is only getting better with age. Pair him with screenwriter and director Dan Gilroy, who’s coming off the success of his directorial debut Nightcrawler, and Roman J. Israel, Esq. should be chalked-up as another victory for Denzel, right?

Denzel Washington stars as Roman J. Israel, Esq., a legal genius but socially inept lawyer who has spent years fighting the good fight for a small law firm in Los Angeles, California. When his partner in the firm unexpectedly experiences a health emergency, Roman finds himself working for the law firm of a former student of his partners’, George Pierce (Colin Farrell). After years of staying true to his values, he finds his morality being challenged due to a deadly case he’s working on with Pierce, while also starting a relationship with a civil rights worker (Carmen Ejogo).

Roman J. Israel, Esq. rests on the shoulders on its iconic star, and Denzel delivers more awardsworthy work as the titular character. Although the character is not entirely likeable, there’s something stunning about Denzel’s transformation into this very intelligent but people skills lacking lawyer. Washington has displayed unbelievable range and has carried films throughout his career, and once again displays his talents in this film.

One has to think it’s bizarre to see him share scenes with Denzel, but Colin Farrell is on his A-game. He may not be able to match Denzel blow for blow, but his supporting part should be highlighted and deserves awards consideration. Carmen Ejogo also delivers a fine performance as well, as she admires Roman’s quirkiness and sees him as an inspiring figure.

The issue that looms large over Roman J. Israel, Esq. is the film’s jumbled narrative. At its core, the film is about a man who abandons his selflessness for a short period of time only to realize it is this quality that makes him who he is. The film takes way too long to set this up, as its main story could be told in under two hours easily, but instead runs for an overlong two hours. Its heavy handedness is also glaring, as there are more subtle ways to depict a redemption story than having your leading man call himself a hypocrite at the beginning of the film and seeing him stray away from his magnum opus civil case to experience the luxuries in life once he is able to obtain them. Director Dan Gilroy made Nightcrawler such a taut, slick thriller back in 2014, so it’s curious to see just how this film managed to escape from him and be so distorted.

It doesn’t help seeing Washington’s character struggle in social situations continuously, which becomes more irritating than endearing after awhile. This is due to the fact Roman is the very definition of someone you wouldn’t trust to park your car. He would not only fail to follow instructions, he would attempt to explain why he didn’t do what you told him to do. This hypothetical situation is similar to many of the actions Roman takes throughout the film, making him rather obnoxious. This handicaps the film, as we typically want to sympathize with the protagonist of a film or at least have a reason to care about them. This is especially troubling when a film with a muddled narrative such as this one needs to be carried by the main character in order to make it a better film. That feeling doesn’t arise until the conclusion, and you’re more likely to react by saying “I told you so” rather than be sympathetic.

Roman J. Israel Esq. isn’t a total misfire, but rather a missed opportunity. The film boasts a capable cast around its star, and features Denzel Washington in yet another tremendous performance. Had the film been more focused, less heavy-handed, and featured a more likeable lead, Roman J. Israel Esq. could’ve been a nice little redemption story. Instead, what we get from Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a tour de force lead performance that can’t quite makeup for its jumbled narrative.

Rating: 2.5 Stars out of 4. Pay Low Matinée Price.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. stars Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Nazneen Contractor, Joseph David-Jones, Andrew T. Lee, and Shelley Hennig. It is in theaters November 17th.

 

 

 

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Bro-Reviews: Geostorm

Armageddon The Day After Tomorrow.

Disaster movies have been a mainstay in Hollywood since its inception. Films like The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure still hold a special place in Hollywood’s history. Disaster films even experienced a resurgence in the 1990s and the 2000s with the release of Independence Day, Titanic, Armageddon, and The Day After Tomorrow, all of which made a killing at the box office. One of the producers of some of the aforementioned films, Dean Devlin, decided it was time for him to get in on the action and make his directorial debut in the newest disaster movie Hollywood has to offer, Geostorm.

Geostorm starts off by explaining that in 2019, global warming has reached extreme new levels and has all but wiped out planet earth. However, thanks to 18 nations coming together to build a system of satellites known as the “Dutch Boy”, led by one Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler), the weather can now be controlled and earth is saved. Years later, the system of satellites appear to be malfunctioning, leaving the earth vulnerable to numerous storms coming together to the point of catastrophic levels that could destroy humanity, known as a “geostorm.” It is then up to the original architect of “The Dutch Boy”, Jake, to solve who is causing the satellites to malfunction before it’s too late.

It’s important to note that Geostorm has been in development since 2014, and required $15 million in re-shoots, with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Danny Cannon being brought on after poor test screenings in 2015. This  resulted in the film changing its release date multiple times. Typically, one of those occurrences is bad sign for a film. When all of these elements are involved, you’ve got a film Warner Brothers knew was bomb from the start. Timing also couldn’t have been worse in regards to the release of the film considering the recent weather disasters in Houston, Texas, Puerto Rico, and California.

Instead of going into the plot of the film more in depth, here is a list of events that actually happen in Geostorm:

  • A scientist aboard “Dutch Boy” is locked into a room that malfunctions and freezes to death before being carried away into space. The event is merely mentioned in passing by Max Lawson (Jim Sturgess) the next scene.
  • Eugenio Derbez, who plays a Mexican robotics expert aboard “Dutch Boy”, cracks a joke regarding the age of Gerard Butler’s character. Derbez is 56. Butler is 47.
  • A Smart Car outruns a volcanic earthquake in Hong Kong.
  • A satellite inside “Dutch Boy” being held on a crane “malfunctions” and attacks Gerrard Butler and his crew.
  • A character is killed by being pushed into a busy street in Washington D.C. This death is not investigated in any way, shape, or form to see who the culprit is.
  • A computer genius compares getting involved in the situation unfolding to getting on a roller coaster after eating Chipotle.
  • A giant blizzard freezes an ocean wave, people, birds, and an airplane in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A model outruns it. Barefoot.
  • The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia experiences extreme heat in the form of a death-ray coming from the malfunctioning satellites.
  • Multiple tornadoes occur in India. A little boy, who has not been introduced until this point in the film, chases after his dog in the middle of it. We are supposed to feel sorry for him and the dog because cheap emotions.
  • A series of lightening strikes destroys a stadium. The only way to avoid the lightening strikes is by driving under a highway overpass.
  • A massive title wave attacks Dubai, and the first person to die is a man riding a camel in the desert. His reaction shot alone is almost worth the price of admission.
  • Gerard Butler drinks a Coors-Light at 11 in the morning. Because he’s Gerard freaking Butler.

If anything I have listed just now is considered a spoiler, I apologize. One must know what exactly they are getting themselves into when watching this film. In regards to the awful special effects that provide the spectacle, Geostorm delivers B-movie thrills that could be considered fun.

The problem with Geostorm, however, is the fact that the entire second act of the film is surprisingly dull. Instead of getting an over the top Gerard Butler vehicle, we get Jim Sturgess trying desperately to revive his career (*IN FREAKING GEOSTORM*) by speechifying and over-acting for seemingly an eternity. We’re used to seeing Gerard Butler movies get insanely stupid. Butler has made a career off such films like in 300, Gamer, Law Abiding Citizen, Olympus Has Fallen, London Has Fallen, and Gods of Egypt . For some reason, even though he is the leading man of the film, it feels like he’s hardly in it. Butler may be a poor man’s Jason Statham and an even poorer man’s Russell Crowe or a combination of the two, but he’s got enough charisma to carry a movie. It makes no sense that a movie like Geostorm, the perfect Gerard Butler vehicle, doesn’t have enough Gerard Butler in it.

Sure, Geostorm has its moments of fun, but they’re drowned out by a second act that goes on for too long and reveals that the film is actually taking itself seriously, a crippling mistake. Had Geostorm been a 90 minute senseless Gerard Butler vehicle where the absurdity of its premise had been taken full advantage of, Geostorm could have at least reached guilty pleasure status. Instead, it’s an uninspired rip-off of Armageddon and The Day After Tomorrow. Geostorm is a classic example of a Hollywood studio film gone horribly wrong. A project that should have never been green-lit, regardless of who was attached to star in it. The only positive outcome that could come out of Geostorm is it’s just stupid enough to leave President Donald Trump inspired by it to the point he starts taking global warming seriously.

Rating: 1/4 Stars. Stay Away.

Geostorm stars Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Ed Harris, Andy Garica, Richard Schiff, Robert Sheehan, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, and Zazie Beetz. It is in theaters October 20th.