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Published: 2008-09-11 - 10:01:29
Movies : Reviews

Righteous Kill Review

By Joe Lozito

Just Duet

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In the great pantheon (and, yes, there is one) of missed movie-pairing opportunities ("Freddy vs. Jason", "Alien vs. Predator") few are as mourned as that of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Ever since they shared a screen, but not a scene, in "The Godfather, Part II", the two actors - whose careers followed a similarly spectacular trajectory - seemed destined to headline a film together. Alas, the closest we'd come to seeing the two square off was 1995's over-blown Michael Mann crime thriller "Heat". And even then, they only shared the screen for two scenes. The third time, it would seem, is the charm for these two venerable actors. Director Jon Avnet unites the two as life-long NYPD partners in "Righteous Kill", a decidedly run-of-the-mill police thriller overly enamored with its own twisty ending.

Mr. De Niro plays Turk, a thirty-year veteran of the police force with, we're told, fifteen kills. In an effective, confessional voice-over, Turk describes the moment he took justice into his own hands - after a child-killer was acquitted via some shaky judicial loopholes. Turk plants evidence and puts the killer behind bars. This act is a turning point for the character, who finds vigilante justice (via a concocted serial killer story) the only way to clean up the streets.

Mr. Pacino plays Turk's loyal partner, Rooster. He's the guy who protects Turk even to a fault, and turns a blind eye with phrases like "this conversation never happened". By nature of its plot, the film belongs to Mr. De Niro; Turk's motivation is the focus of the story. Mr. Pacino, for his part, remains a good sport, maintaining a high energy and adding a welcome lightness to the film (without his sometimes distracting theatrics). To some extent, it's worth seeing "Kill" if only to hear Mr. Pacino proclaim: "Yor my PAHTner!"

Indeed, it's great to see these two warhorses together at last. Of course, it would have been nice if the script, by Russell Gewirtz ("Inside Man"), could have given them something more to work with. Instead, Mr. Gewirtz spends much of the time setting up a not-as-clever-as-he-thinks-it-is ending and neglects to build memorable characters. Secondary players - John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg as sparring detectives and Carla Gugino as a randy forensic scientist - also get lost in the shuffle. Even the police work seems perfunctory (when they "break the case" it's far from revelatory, it's more like "well, duh"). The film also loses sight of the fact that the would-be twist is telegraphed from miles away.

Still, we could do worse (and we have) than to watch Mr. De Niro and Mr. Pacino going through the motions on screen together. At the very least, they seem to be having fun. Even if the film is a bit, dare I say it, reHeated.

What did you think?

Movie title Righteous Kill
Release year 2008
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary At last, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino star in a film together. Too bad it's a fairly run-of-the-mill cop drama with an ending you'll see coming from miles away.
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