Righteous Kill

The other day I watched the film Heat for the first time in a long time. It was famous when it came out for being the first film ever to have all-star actors Al Pacino and Robert De Niro converse together. Many audience members had beef when they went to see the film, and the two method geniuses only had one-and-a-half scenes together. But all that aside, Heat is one of the best crime films of the last twenty-five years. In Righteous Kill, Pacino and De Niro pair up again, but this time as partner detectives–guaranteeing significant screen time together. The audience got what they wished for, and were left with a film so devoid crativity and intelligence, we hope the two never make a movie together again.

The story involves Turk (De Niro) and Rooster (Pacino), two officers who have decades upon decades of experience in the NYPD. One thing they hate more than anything is watching criminals walk on a technacality, after they worked so hard to put them away. They run a good cop-bad cop routine, with Rooster as the witty charmer, and Turk as the strong-arm bulldog. They both believe that violence is just part of the job. “Most people respect the badge, but everybody respects the gun,” says Turk–so you see the kind of dialogue we’re dealing with here.

The big secret between Turk and Rooster is that they once planted evidence on a man they knew to be a child murderer and rapist. They knew him to be guilty, but with no evidence, and someone to back his story, there was nothing they could do, but cross the line of justice. Then, suddenly, all of the scumbags that were walking away clean are turning up with bullet wounds in their brains. One after the other, these free criminals are being gunned-down, each left with a poem resting on their corpses–so this criminal obviously took some tips from The Riddler.

Turk, despite being a menacing, violent man well over sixty, attracts the sexual escapades of Det. Karen Corelli (Carla Cugino), a forensic specialist. She, along with the much-younger officers Perez (John Leguizamo) and Riley (Donnie Wahlberg), notice a change in Turk as soon as the poetry-laden bodies begin to stack up. The person who is commiting all of these crimes seems likely to be a cop, and with Turk being as demonstrative and justice-searching as he is, he seems a likely candidate. Even Rooster, to a point, begins seeing the emotional change in his partner. So, is Turk a vigilante police officer or not? The audience, unfortunately, is left to figure it out.

Let’s forget for a second that this film forces you to watch a 64-year-old De Niro attempt to sexually pleasure a woman nearly thirty years younger than him. And while we’re at it, let’s forget that the film has Pacino drenched in a tan bronzer than Alicia Keyes. Both of these, unfortunately, are already norms in Hollywood, so it would be hackneyed to poke fun at that. Instead, let’s focus on the deplorably inate screenplay, which seems to know close to nothing about police work or crime in general, other than what you can pick up watching your sepcial edition DVD of Scarface.

This is the kind of film that inspires lines of dialogue such as “This is the clusterfuck to end all clusterfucks”. Yeah, cause respectable people actually walk around saying that. In the film I saw directly before this, Burn After Reading, there was also a line of dialogue that used the ominous word “clusterfuck”, but that film used the word to its creative advantage. It is an obscenity, sure, but it is a unique obscenity that can be used toward great humor, or can be manipulated many ways in dialogue. For Righteous Kill, the character spits it out like a potato, and its used only for its provocative draw, and nothing more.

Not that anybody should expect much out of a film that has Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson billed directly below the two legends. He plays a drug dealer named Spider (does anybody have a real name in this movie?). It’s hard to be disappointed in a film that should’ve never been made in the first place. The star power of De Niro and Pacino alone is what got this film off the ground, and well it should. When you look at the two actors, you see two of the most talented actors in cinematic history. They were some of the biggest stars of the 1970’s film renaissance, and are both Oscar winners. These guys are class acts, but they take part in a film that takes them at the basest value.

To his credit, Pacino seems to have a little fun with his role, almost poking fun at how vapid the storyline becomes. But De Niro, always the face of intensity, seems lazy by comparison. If these two ever line up together for another film, I don’t doubt that I would go see it. I mean, there is still so much potential for magic between these two megastars. I have to believe that there’s a better vehicle out there for them than this. Director Jon Avnet was also behind the helm for the equally hapless 88 Minutes, released earlier this year. He seems on a goal to be the worst filmmaker of the year. If your looking for a true taste of the potential between Pacino and De Niro, check out the diner scene between the two in Heat. That ten minute segment alone is better than one reel of this film.


Directed by John Avnet