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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Shows that some choices can lead to immediate rewards, though at an extremely high price. It shows both sides of the coin, both the allure and the consequences.
Positive Role Models
The main character is a fighter for worthy causes who grows tired of too many losses and not enough victories. He suffers a moment of weakness, enjoys a brief ill-gotten reward, and pays the ultimate consequence. He takes full responsibility for his failure.
Violence & Scariness
A mugger beats up the main character. Verbal description of convenience store shooting/killing. A homeless person appears to be dead. Mild car chase, car run off road. Arguing.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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Occasional uses of "f--k," "a--hole," "ass," "bitch," "piss," "hell," "damn," "goddamn," and "Christ."
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Products & Purchases
A character regularly eats JIF peanut butter. U-Haul truck shown in an extended scene.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Social drinking by adults -- beer and wine. Brief reference to drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a drama about a troubled lawyer (Denzel Washington) who's suddenly uprooted when his longtime partner has a heart attack. Language is strong (a use of "f--k," plus "a--hole," "bitch," etc.) but not frequent. The main character is brutally mugged in one scene, there are verbal confrontations and descriptions of violence, and a homeless person appears to be dead. Social drinking (beer and wine) is shown, and a character jokes about how drinking helps make things easier. Sex isn't an issue; there's a small, affectionate kiss between a man and a woman. While the movie isn't particularly edgy or iffy, it's doubtful that younger viewers -- even teens -- will be very interested. Even for adults, it's a somewhat puzzling experience due to unsatisfying character arcs. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
As in his harrowing Nightcrawler, director Dan Gilroy tells the story of a brilliant, ill-fitting outsider in a vivid workplace, but this movie fails due to puzzling, choppy character arcs. Roman J. Israel, Esq., starts promisingly, with a strong, central performance by Washington. Roman is possibly a savant; he wears old, bulky clothes and oversized glasses and is unsure of how to act around people but is extremely sure of his job. Gilroy establishes a ramshackle, stressed-out Los Angeles that's full of noise and clutter and homeless people on sidewalks. Roman navigates these things assuredly, as long as human interaction isn't required.
Then the plot kicks in. Roman's first major decision makes very little sense, according to what we've seen; subsequent decisions built on this one likewise fail to hold water. Perhaps worse, the movie's main supporting character, Farrell's powerful George Pierce, keeps changing his stance. He initially seems like a villain, then turns kind, then villainous, and finally kind again; we can't trust him, even when he seems to genuinely care about Roman. A third key character, activist lawyer Maya (Carmen Ejogo), feels completely tacked on and entirely too convenient. The whole movie leaves off with an unsatisfying thud, perhaps having done too much when less would have been more interesting.
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