Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Holidays are the time for inspirational films with positive themes, but fictional Roman J. Israel, not one of them. Directed by Dan Gilroy, the title role is for a humble African American lawyer (played by Denzel Washington). He prepares cases for an extremely prominent civil rights lawyer to win in court until his boss suddenly has a heart attack, falls into a coma, and dies. All of a sudden, he is on his own without a job, so he seeks employment but has legal skills that are not a good fit at the law firm of George Pierce (Colin Farrell), who nevertheless takes pity on him, gives him an office, and assigns him responsibility for pro bono cases. Pierce is fascinated to learn that within the bulky briefcase that he always carries is evidence for a class-action lawsuit against the federal judiciary for offering discriminatory plea bargains for African Americans. But Israel eats primarily peanut butter sandwiches, does not own an automobile, and lives in a rundown apartment complex. One day he decides to identify a killer in order to collect a $100,000 award, buy new suits, and live in a classy apartment. But in so doing he violates client−lawyer confidentiality, placing himself in legal, occupational, and personal jeopardy. There is a sad ending, though the epilog offers hope that his longstanding mission to stop discriminatory plea bargains may win in court some day. MH