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Police Thriller with Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino

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Most People Respect the BADGE...But Everyone Respects the Gun!

  • Jan 12, 2009

The last time I watched my two favorite iconic actors was in the blockbuster hit "HEAT" and of course, I was drawn to director Jon Avnet's "RIGHTEOUS KILL"--although, I was keeping my expectations really low. The film has a very interesting premise and has the makings of an effective police drama, unfortunately the screenplay by Russell Gerwitz appears to have been hampered by a "gimmick" in the form of a video taped confession.

Turk (Robert De Niro) and Rooster (Al Pacino) are two cops, with  30 years of service to the NYPD. These two detectives have a lot of experience and have seen a lot of things in their career. Turk actually has some anger management issues and Rooster is just full of "cool". The two are teamed up with another pair of detectives, Riley and Perez (Donnie Wahlberg and John Leguizamo respectively) from another unit to investigate the killings of several "scumbags" who are still out on the streets because of technicalities in court. These killings seem to be the work of a vigilante roaming the city streets who leaves poetry after each kill. There is some tension between Turk and Perez, Turk is currently a forensic scientist's (played by sexy Carla Gugino) "whoopee" buddy and Perez has a history with her. The four detectives find themselves in a collision course as Riley and Perez names Turk as the suspect. All the evidence points to Turk--or does it?

First of all, I love Pacino and DeNiro so it is such a treat to see them interact within the same camera view for such a good period of time. (they had limited interaction in "Heat") These two men are iconic actors and they can carry any film to no end. You just look at these two actors and their presence just commands attention. Their characters "Rooster" and "Turk" are somewhat compelling and complex, they are very interesting, so at least both Pacino and DeNiro have something to work with. Pacino is the one who is level-headed while De Niro is the hot-headed one; also quite an unusual parallel to Wahlberg's Riley and Leguizamo's Perez. I suppose it was an attempt for Avnet to express the familiar mechanics of the "good cop, bad cop routine". Quite stereotypical, but with Pacino's and DeNiro‘s performances, one doesn't necessarily need to be original.

The script does have a good plot, decent set ups, complex characters but what really hurt the film is its predictability. The film's main gimmick with "Turk" on videotape confessing in the first act just ruined everything for me, it became so predictable and I solved the "mystery" before the first half. For a movie like this, the serial killer-vigilante's identity have to be meticulously hidden so the viewer can be immersed into the proceedings--the style is just a cheap trick to try and interest the audience. Ok, I tried to justify the videotaped confession by thinking that the film is mostly about friendship, duty and trust; I honestly did try to get over the thriller elements but the directing and editing just kept me from buying this film as a morality play. I cannot go any further without spoiling the film for anybody, but to make things short, the direction was depending on misdirection on the screenplay and some ineffective twists for it to be accepted as one. Too bad, a few efforts in the editing room would have put this film into the list of effective cop dramas.

The film just showed a lot of errors in the way it was structured, the proceedings truly discouraged me to be involved and interested. Several elements proved to be critical mistakes. I was quite surprised as to how Avnet managed to convince this impressive cast to accept this project. Then, the screenplay plays its desperate hand by displaying some forensics groundwork and some tricky camera-work which are obviously meant to add some "meat" to the film. Carla Gugino's character Karen seemed to be an obvious plot device to add some tension as well as eye candy. But her assault by the killer just felt too cheap. As a whodunit cop film, the movie falls apart.

The mistakes with "Righteous Kill" began and ended with the fact that it showed its cards too soon, it misuses its good elements, and it gave this terrific cast some, but too little to work with. There is a very good film underneath, which could have easily been solved by re-shoots and re-editing but I suppose Avnet liked his product as it is. The film isn't that bad, it does have a good premise but it just does nothing with its iconic leads. One might say, predictability can be accepted and if the journey is rewarding--well, the one great thing we can divulge from this film is the fact that it does star Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. Yep, their performances does command respect.

Rental [3 Stars]

Video/Audio: 2.35 ratio anamorphic widescreen. Beautiful transfer, natural colors and strong black levels. Minor enhancements here and there but overall, the Dvd yields a good picture. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is quite clear and powerful enough.

Extras: Interviews, production notes/making of/ trailers

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August 17, 2010
Excellent review I have not seen this movie yet I wanted to see it when it was in theaters but I missed it I guess I'll have to give it a go sometime and see if it is actually good.
July 17, 2010
I still need to watch this one, or did I. Any way great review WP.
January 19, 2009
Thanks, you two. thanks for the read.
January 15, 2009
Thanks for posting this! De Niro and Pacino are such great actors but I, too, was disappointed by their roles in "Heat." I had my doubts about seeing this movie but after reading this review I'll probably rent it.
More Righteous Kill reviews
review by . May 05, 2009
Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro play two long-time NYC detectives who have been partners for years. DeNiro's Turk has a hair-trigger temper and definite issues with anger management. He's counterbalanced by Pacino's Rooster who's an easygoing, funloving guy. Both are tracking a serial killer who's murdering criminals who have not been convicted due to technicality glitches. The investigation points to a cop (this brought up by Rooster) which Turk adamantly refuses to believe. Brian Dennehy (another …
review by . February 07, 2009
(2008) Film Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino
Not entirely, but their age is beginning to show. When these two mega-stars sign on for the same film, blockbuster is usually the result. It's no secret that these actors never leave anything on the table and use their full arsenal to deliver acting performances that few, if any, other actor can duplicate. So if these two actors can't produce a masterpiece, where does the problem lay? Think of it like this - If you give Michelangelo a slab of marble he'll produce David; give him a slab of wood, …
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William ()
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