This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Travis McClain’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Roman had two strikes against it before I ever got past the credits. Unfairly though it may be, it's the second movie on a double feature DVD with Descendant, which I had just finished watching before going onto Roman. That movie was pretty subpar and prepared me for another disappointment. Guilt by association and all that, you know. The other strike was that the visual quality is a step above YouTube - and non-anamorphic, to boot. Snobbery? Perhaps. But we cannot accept that great cinematography helps a story without accepting the reverse, and the look of Roman is a detriment.
Lucky McGee, who wrote the film, gives a really good performance in the titular role. McGee plays it straight, as in a drama (I was reminded of Owen Wilson's terrific performance in The Minus Man). It's unclear just what is wrong with Roman, but we're given to understand that he isn't strictly evil so much as just a bad fit for society. He reminds me of Frankenstein's Monster in that respect. True, his murder of "Isis" (Kristen Bell, in a disappointingly brief role) is more vicious than The Monster's accidental drowning of Maria, but I don't believe either realized what he was doing, and immediately felt remorse and terror when it was over.
That isn't to say that Roman's murder of "Isis" is benign. Preventing her from leaving his apartment was, on its own, reprehensible. Attacking her was appalling. Bell's muffled screams make it one of the more upsetting scenes I've watched in a movie in quite awhile. On a storyteller level, I get why this had to happen and be told that way, but I also do wish we could get away from using such attacks to establish villainy. "Isis" is just another in a large group of women in a refrigerator, even if she was put there by the guy who is also supposed to be tormented by it.
Nectar Rose's pixie performance as Eva is especially likable. She's endearing and charming throughout, which is impressive for a character who spends her Saturdays having chili dogs at the cemetery. As with the fate of "Isis", though, I was disappointed that the film leads Eva to commit suicide. Two women died in the service of making us feel different things about Roman. It's off-putting at best and offensively misogynistic at worst.
Within that inherently bothersome story structure, though, Roman is well-executed (its dismal cinematography aside). The pace is brisk, the mood is never broken, and unlike Descendant, the cast never devolves into soap opera-level work.
Plus, I'll give the movie credit for its use of pork and beans canning trivia. I always like when I learn things by watching movies. That was something I had forgotten wondering about, until Kristen Bell brought it up.
How Roman Entered My Flickchart
Roman < The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad --> #1580
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad wins for its "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" adaptation, though I'd pick Roman over its "Wind in the Willows" adaptation.
Roman > Spider-Man 2 --> #1191
Its misogyny and lack of originality aside, Roman didn't annoy me as much as did Spider-Man 2.
Roman < Tango & Cash --> #1191
Buddy cops > Woman killer
Roman > Necessary Roughness --> #1091
As a feminist, I ought to pick Necessary Roughness for putting a woman in a proactive, bold role instead of a bathtub...but that movie just wasn't very entertaining. Roman wins by default.
Roman < Training Day --> #1091
The situation in Roman interests me more, but there's no question that in execution, Training Day is both stronger and more entertaining.
Roman < Terror on the Midway --> #1091
Superman war propaganda > Misogyny with YouTube video quality
Roman > Swamp Shark --> #1078
Swamp Shark knew what it wanted to be, and it works, but Roman was more compelling.
Roman > Wild Wild West --> #1072
I'll give Wild Wild West credit for its a/v quality and originality, but it loses points for failing to make me care. Roman isn't great, but at least I was invested in it.
Roman < Beer for My Horses --> #1072
Both are in the "okay" range, never going beyond what other movies had already shown was safe to do. Going with Beer for My Horses for the chemistry between Keith and Carrington.
Roman > Boo --> #1070
Boo is an amusing novelty, but overlong. Roman is flawed, but I did get caught up in it regardless. It gets the nod.
Roman entered my Flickchart at #1070/1588