Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

The last film which we had the pleasure of seeing iconic actor Al Pacino in, also directed by John Avnet who directed this particular film was the summarily awful 88 minutes. Awful. Simply awful. Now a full year later we can assume that Mr. Avnet and Mr. Pacino where sitting around having lunch at Spago’s or wherever and theorized that perhaps the next movie they make together would be much better if they could rope the man who is STILL the worlds greatest living actor, Robert DeNiro, into being in it. On an unrelated side note, Microsoft Word is placing red squiggly lines under Pacino and DeNiro but yet it lets Avnet slide. Talk about a lack of respect. Anyway to get back on point, despite the fact that Pacino and DeNiro have been acting since before a lot of us were even born and have been HUGE movie stars for a lot of that time, they’ve only appeared together in two movies, ‘The Godfather II’ in which they were never on screen together since they represented two different eras in that film, and ‘Heat’ in which they were only on screen together maybe twice. Deep into the third acts of their respective careers we finally get a chance to see these two heavyweights spend some considerable time together, for probably the last time, in the thriller ‘Righteous Kill’, with the question being were they able to cover up the stench that was ’88 minutes’?

After a stylized credit opening featuring our aging stars shooting a crap load of bullets during target practice, we witness police detective David ‘Turk’ Fisk (DeNiro) giving what looks to be a videotaped confession claiming to be the serial killer that has scumbags in New York City on high alert. Fisk and his long time partner Tom ‘Rooster’ Cowan (Pacino) are grizzled vets of the NYPD and one day, after a man who rapes and murders a ten year old girl is freed by a jury of his peers, Fisk makes the fateful decision to plant some evidence on the man and have him jailed for a crime he didn’t commit. Soon after this happens a number of thugs start showing up dead with bullets to the head with crappy poems dropped by their sides.

There are a few things that make it easy to believe that Fisk could very well be this serial killer with one being that, unlike his ultra cool partner, the man does have some serious anger management issues. He kicks the crap out of handcuffed drug dealer Spider (Curtis Jackson), he is engaged in a sado masochistic relationship with fellow officer Karen Corelli (Carla Gugino) and he has some kind of connection to all the bad guys getting wasted. Younger detectives Riley (Donnie Wahlberg) and Perez (John Leguizamo), who are also investigating the case, are so convinced that Fisk is their man that they take their case to his Captian (Brian Dennehy) who is convinced enough to pull Fisk off active duty, despite the protestations of his loyal partner. So the question remains, if Fisk isn’t our serial killer, and it sure looks like he is considering his taped confession and all, then who is?

Actually it’s fairly obvious pretty early on who our person of interest was, at least to me, but more on that a little later. Where ‘Righteous Kill’ succeeds is very easy to see and that is in the joy in watching DeNiro and Pacino work with words and work against each other like few others can. The film was filled with a lot of quick snappy dialog that probably only worked because these two actors delivered these lines with verve and humor and that watching them play their game, at least for me, made this movie worth seeing. Since these two grand masters of the craft are so entertaining to watch playing a pair of beat up, grizzled, profane, hardened detectives, it elevated the performances of all of those around them as well. Not that an actor with the pedigree of Brian Dennehy, who’s even older than DeNiro and Pacino needs help having his game raised since he can, and did match these guys line for line for the short time that he was on the screen.

Though Pacino and DeNiro make ‘Righteous Kill’ a success when it comes to watching a pair of great actors doing what they do, it’s an equal failure as a murder mystery since there really is no mystery. I’m not even unsure if there’s supposed to be a mystery because it’s so poorly executed. As we said earlier, since the Fisk character admits to the crime almost on the films first frame, he really can’t very well be our perp now can he? This almost would make watching the rest of the movie pointless. Or at least one would think because I’m not going to spoil it for you. The script does attempts to throw up various red herrings our way to try to pull the viewing audience in various directions, but they weren’t all that convincing or cleverly done and actually smelled like a red herring as opposed to smartly integrated plot points. There was the completely throwaway plot point featuring Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson and a pretty blonde lawyer that seemed as if it were stuck in the movie just to give some kind of urban feel and put another pretty girl in the movie. And by the time we get to the drawn out conclusion, with most of us already knowing the ‘who’ and simply needing to know the ‘why’, to say the least it was underwhelming.

However, despite what ‘Righteous Kill’ lacks in narrative, and it does lack quite a bit, it almost makes up for it completely in character. See it for Deniro and Pacino, see it for Gugino and Leguizamo, see it for Dennehy and Wahlberg. Don’t see it for it for inspired story telling or clever plotting because it’s simply not there.

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