Review: Righteous Kill
Plot: Detectives Turk (Robert De Niro) & Rooster (Al Pacino) are on the trail of a serial killer who's been knocking off some of the worst criminals in the city. Eventually- it becomes clear that the killer is a cop, and soon suspicion begins to fall on the hotheaded Turk, while the more even tempered Rooster must try to clear his partner's name.
Review: This is a terribly depressing review to write. I know that buzz has been bad on this one for months, but I was really hoping that the people behind RIGHTEOUS KILL would hit this one out of the park. I mean- c'mon- De Niro & Pacino together in a cop flick. How bad could it be? The answer, sadly, is plenty.
Truthfully, RIGHTEOUS KILL is not quite as bad as I feared it might be. After seeing 88 MINUTES, I became terrified at the prospect of its director, Jon Avnet, being behind the helm of RIGHTEOUS KILL. 88 MINUTES wasn't just the worst Pacino film since REVOLUTION, but if anyone one else had been the star of the film, there's NO WAY it would have hit theaters. It had straight to DVD written all over it, like most other Millennium Films "masterpieces" that have been flooding the market over the last few years. I don't know what the deal is with the guys that run the studio, but the list of cinematic atrocities unleashed on the public by their studio is endless. THE FLOCK, EDISON, THE WICKER MAN, and DAY OF THE DEAD...the list is endless. Somehow, these guys not only manage to stay in business, but they keep attracting top actors to their projects- it's like they're a modern day Cannon Pictures. Heck- at least Cannon had some good films; Millennium has had one- RAMBO, that's it!
My issue with Millennium Films aside, RIGHTEOUS KILL is one extremely disappointing and lethargic thriller. I honestly can't imagine what got Pacino & De Niro to agree to do this film (although I imagine a dump truck full of money had something to do with it). If the film had at least been a competent thriller- I would have been fine with it. Not every film can be HEAT, but not only is this not HEAT, but it's not even MAGNUM FORCE, which is where I’m sure writer Russell Gewirtz must have ripped off the idea for his script from (he also borrowed a lot from his own INSIDE MAN, including the framing device he uses to tell the story). From the first scene is the film- it's PAINFULLY obvious exactly who the bad guy is. When the surprise is revealed, it's supposed to be some huge twist- but anyone with half a brain (or has at least seen a few episodes of DEXTER) will have seen the big reveal coming from a mile away.
Not only is the film predictable, but it's also loaded with every cop movie cliché in the book. You've got the upstart rookies (played by Donnie Wahlberg & John Leguizamo- who have nothing to do but pout and/or look exasperated), the hot forensics investigator (Carla Guigano), the pissed off captain (Brian Dennehy), etc. They even have a pretty young lawyer that gets caught with drugs, and then has to wear a wire. Wonder how that situation ends? And of course- we also get the big, climactic, angry Al Pacino monologue, which has popped up in all of his films since THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE, and must be a clause in his contract by this point.
Still, all of these flaws could have been forgiven if the film had at least had the slightest spark of life in it. Regrettably, it feels like everyone is on autopilot in this film, especially Pacino & De Niro. A lot of people have been saying that they're over the hill- but I firmly believe they both have a lot of life left in them as actors. They just need to find projects worthy of them, or at least material that will bring them to life. Neither of them are bad in this film (by this point- they're practically incapable of delivering a truly bad performance), but they both seem like they're on auto pilot here- and simply cashing a check. The only real saving grace is their natural chemistry- which comes through in even the worst scenes. I just wish they had more to work with.