Is it possible to not recommend a movie headlined by Robert De Niro and Al Pacino? One would think it to be an impossible feat, but leave it to screenwriter Russell Gewirtz and director Jon Avnet to muck up the whole works. There’s nary a bad thing to say about the stars, except for the fact that they chose this project to team up for, but this is the kind of plot we expect to see out of potboilers starring Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman. Remember Hide and Seek? Yeah, the twist is that obvious.
Turk (De Niro) and Rooster (Pacino) have been New York City cops and partners for nearly thirty years. They’ve put away their share of scum, but they’ve also seen a disturbing number of clearly guilty people walk free. The latter comes to the forefront as a serial killer is on the loose; and he’s killing the people who have appeared to escape with their freedom. The killer leaves notes by his victims, convinced that he is doing the police a favor by dispatching these individuals. As the body count grows, the NYPD begins to believe that one of their own may be responsible for the killings.
While I fully blame Gewirtz for the asinine plot, I will give him and Avnet credit for at least keeping things interesting. As silly as the whole thing is, it’s never boring. In reality two guys like Turk and Rooster would be retired with their pensions and gold watches, but Gewirtz writes the parts as if they are half their age. This leads to some great dialogue (Turk’s lover, Karen Corelli (Gugino), is essentially a sexaholic and there are plenty of jokes made at Turk’s expense), but no particular scene is really memorable. It’s a shame when that happens with talent like this.
De Niro and Pacino appear onscreen as two friends who’ve known each other for decades. They play off one another well, and there are subtle winks by both that they know how preposterous this whole thing is. The supporting cast is largely disposable, even with some name talent. They’re forced to play along with the gimmick.
Righteous Kill is certainly a missed opportunity. Though it may be unfair to expect something as great as 1995’s Heat, it is reasonable to expect a solid, competent. Aside from a few one-of-a-kind exchanges, Righteous Kill offers nothing that any regular filmgoer hasn’t already seen. This is not the kind of remark that should be made about a film starring two of the greatest screen legends of all time.
Studio: Overture Films
Length: 100 Minutes
Rating: R for violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and brief drug use.
Theatrical Release: September 12, 2008
Directed by: Jon Avnet
Written by: Russell Gewirtz
Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Curtis Jackson, Carla Gugino, John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg