Denzel Washington's Roman J. Israel, Esq. Joins 2017 Awards Race

The Denzel Washington-led legal thriller Roman J. Israel, Esq. will begin its awards season run by premiering at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. Washington came close to winning his third acting Academy Award this past year, for his work on the Oscar-winning play-turned movie Fences (which Washington both directed and starred in). Roman J. Israel, Esq. sees the Hollywood icon instead join forces with writer/director Dan Gilroy on his first directorial effort since his 2014 crime/thriller, Nightcrawler (which landed Gilroy an Oscar nod for his writing).

Formerly titled Inner CityRoman J. Israel, Esq. (like Nightcrawler) takes place in Los Angeles and features Washington as its namesake - an idealistic defense attorney who finds himself in over his head, upon being brought onboard by slick, cutthroat lawyer Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) as a member of his firm. Roman J. Israel, Esq. joins Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water and Little Miss Sunshine filmmaking duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' Battle of the Sexes, on the roster of films that are screening during TIFF this year as part of a larger effort to generate positive buzz, ahead of the "official" start of the 2017 awards season.

Related: The Shape of Water Early Reviews

Sony Pictures has confirmed that Roman J. Israel, Esq. will premiere at the 2017 TIFF on the evening of Sunday, September 10th at the Ryerson Theatre (around the same time that Darren Aronofsky's mother! premieres at the event). Gilroy, who was last at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014 for the premiere of Nightcrawler (his directorial debut), issued the following statement, as part of the announcement:

“We always hoped to premiere at Toronto and couldn’t be happier that TIFF audiences will be the first to see the film. Thanks to [Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of TIFF] and the entire festival crew for embracing us and bringing Roman Israel to the world.”

Similar to how Nightcrawler quickly drew comparisons to socially-conscious 1970s movies like Network and Taxi Driver upon its release in 2014, Roman J. Israel, Esq. is already being likened to Sidney Lumet's 1982 film The Verdict: a performance-driven legal drama (with distinct social and ethical themes) that earned multiple Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture and a Best Actor nod for star Paul Newman. Based on both the quality of Gilroy's directorial debut and the positive buzz surrounding his new project, there appears to be a strong chance that Roman Israel, Esq. will end up bringing Washington his fair share of attention this awards season (and maybe a few wins, too).

Further buoying Roman J. Israel, Esq.'s Oscar dreams is the promising supporting ensemble around Washington and Farrell - a roster that includes Carmen Ejogo (SelmaAlien: Covenant), Shelley Henning (Teen Wolf) and Nazneen Contractor (24, Heroes: Reborn), among others. 2017 has already proven to be a fruitful year for Gilroy as a storyteller, thanks to his efforts as co-writer on this past spring's blockbuster hit Kong: Skull Island. Now he will get a chance to flex his muscles behind the camera as director and, hopefully, finish this season out on a hight note with Roman J. Israel, Esq.

NEXT: 2017 Fall Movie Preview - The 20 Films To See

Source: Toronto International Film Festival

Key Release Dates
  • Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017) release date: Nov 03, 2017
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