Pacino, De Niro wasted in stiff ‘Righteous Kill’
September 12, 2008
Its not that the crime thriller Righteous Kill is spectacularly awful. Its just thoroughly mediocre a standard police procedural, a long episode of Law & Order, unremarkable but for the pairing of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.But really, shouldnt we expect more from these two, considered among the greatest actors of our time? Well, we might have been justified in having high hopes about 15 years ago, before both stars had morphed into caricatures of themselves.They shared a few moments on screen in Michael Manns Heat in 1995, and they had no scenes together in The Godfather: Part II. In theory, seeing them play off each other for an entire film should have been a thrill, a clash of the scenery-chewing titans. In reality, its hard to take them seriously, even though each actor has dialed down his all-too familiar persona: the repressed rage of De Niro, the voluminous volatility of Pacino.Under the pseudo-flashy direction of Jon Avnet (who also directed Pacino this year in the flop 88 Minutes), De Niro and Pacino play geriatric New York police detectives who go by the nicknames Turk and Rooster. Theyre on the tail of a serial killer: a vigilante who takes out bad guys who have it coming, then leaves a poem behind at the crime scene. As the bodies pile up, the evidence suggests that a cop is the one pulling the trigger: The script from Russell Gewirtz drags us down one obvious avenue for most of the film, only to leave us with a gimmicky, obvious twist at the end.Gewirtzs screenplay for Spike Lees suspenseful, darkly funny Inside Man was far more clever. Whereas that film was skillfully paced and plotted, Righteous Kill meanders from one shooting to the next until the climactic, bombastic confrontation between our two hammy stars at the end. Along the way, Avnet shows us chess pieces and bullet casings falling as groan-worthy metaphors. (He does make the daily rhythms of New York feel authentic, however.)Carla Gugino seems wedged in as a crime scene analyst who becomes suspicious of Turk, her longtime quasi-boyfriend. Shes also into rough sex, a gratuitous, borderline offensive detail. Brian Dennehy is solid, as usual, as Turk and Roosters sarcastic lieutenant.And rapper Curtis 50 Cent Jackson is as stiff and monotone as ever, playing a supposedly charismatic drug dealer. Apparently, he hasnt taken any acting lessons since starring in 2005 Get Rich or Die Tryin and in that movie, he essentially played himself.
Righteous Kill Released by Overture Films. Classified: R for violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and brief drug use. Running time: 101 minutes. Rated: One and a half stars out of four.