I think I’ve spoken already about films about assholes. They are probably one of my favourite “genre” of films. It’s the reason why I survived so long in the world of “enjoying” shows like Entourage. With problematic ideas constantly ongoing in that show, I can’t help but revel in the ways in which Ari Gold spewed his venom at his victims.
Here we watch on as Roman J. Isreal Esq, played by Denzel Washington, a seasoned legal professional is forced out from the back room after his partner is made incapable due to a stroke into a client facing position. The problem with this is that Roman lacks, as he puts it, the patience for the personal interactions needed. The truth of the matter is that he’s a highly intelligent lawyer and direct in nature. These attributes combined can be a tough pill to swallow for the uninitiated as his direct approach can look as unfeeling, where it is truthfully just being honest and clear.
The film places him in a world which doesn’t always value that approach to the world.
We see as he heads down to the local activist group seeking employment and breaking into tears espousing his skills while at the same time accusing some of “dragging their feet”; we watch as George Pierce, played by Colin Farrell, comes in to close up Roman’s firm and see Roman do his best to defend his position but fail. Roman is kicked out into the wild world that for the last near thirty years he’s avoided by staying reserved in his position.
Denzel Washington is still a real joy to watch even if he’s in a weirdly conflicting film. In a film where we watch Denzel walk out into a modern day world where he looks as if he’s popping right out of a 70s film. From his suit to his fuzzy orange headphones that seem as though they come from a Sony original walkman, which surprises us when we hear him say he’s using an iPod, everything about him screams dated and recluse.
This film however, delivers on one thing if nothing else; that being a repeated thrashing of society as a whole. We watch on as people engage in day to day norms and Roman is there to shout from the heavens as to what is right. Just like when he aggressively reminds men and women that it’s still polite to offer your seat to a standing woman in the room.
It’s also helped that we can see in moments like that Roman can’t help himself. Roman knows it too. We see at times he himself wanting to catch himself but failing and knowing he’s hard to be around. It helps to make the scene come off more comedic than tragic. Which is good.
Where problems are encountered are in the film’s general world view in contrast to our main character. Eventually with the world kicking Roman enough times he breaks and decides to break his own code by breaking the law and using priveleged information for profit. This makes Roman less directed in his judgement of the world. At the same time when the film ends and wants us to believe that Roman became a lightening rod for change in all people it feels weirdly offputting. Is the world a complete shithole with no salvaging? Is it worth saving? Are we just a savant away from redemption? I don’t know. But we all seem to need more soul tunes on our iPods in order to make us see it all correctly at this point.