For all our coverage of Toronto International Film Festival 2017, click here.
Well, it was my first Toronto International Film Festival this year as Vanyaland film editor, and it was a tremendously crazy six days while I was up there. I saw a total of 22 movies, including some that I'll be writing about later, but what we've got for you today, to wrap up our coverage of the TIFF, is a collection of capsule reviews -- what we've dubbed "the rest of the fest." Some are notable and award-winning, others are absolutely miserable and worth running away from. We have new works from Joseph Kahn, John Woo, Brie Larson, Scott Cooper, and many others telling tales from all ends of the genre spectrum. Hey, this list even includes one of the best films I've seen all year, so check it out.
Roman J. Israel, Esq.
What a massive, crushing disappointment. Dan Gilroy’s sophomore feature, after his ace crime thriller Nightcrawler, is a similar character study of a somewhat fascinating personality with likewise one of the best actors working today in the lead role, Denzel Washington. It sounds all so intriguing on paper: Roman J. Israel, a Los Angeles attorney who works in the shadows for a brassy and high-achieving Civil Rights lawyer, has his life thrown into total disarray when his partner suffers a heart attack and falls into a coma. He’s offered a job by a student of his former boss (Colin Farrell), who is a pragmatic true believer who’s found success managing a huge law firm, and Israel chafes against going to work for him. In doing so, he also commits a tremendously serious crime, and compromises his ethics even more.
Washington’s effective in a few of the scenes inside of jails and courtrooms, but his bits involving Israel’s private life and his attempted romance with a young activist (Carmen Ejogo) comes off aloof in a way not fitting the character and emotionally dishonest. Gilroy’s direction is lifeless and his script is atrociously paced (the film takes its sweet-ass time getting to doing anything at all), and features little wit, or deep emotional insight along the way. Buried beneath all of this is a germ of an interesting idea about the betrayal of one’s ideals and the psychological consequences of selling out, but it’s three or four drafts away from being even the slightest bit compelling or watchable. It’s a belly-flop in all shape and forms that’s been given a prestige release date by its distributor, and it will reap what it sows at the end of the year. Avoid this at all costs.