September 15, 2008

Movie Review: Righteous Kill

righteouskill5_largeRobert Deniro and Al Pacino in a cop drama? How can you go wrong? With just those two actors it would seem that a screenplay would almost right itself. Heck, you could probably just give them a location and let them improv each scene. Do enough locations and you could probably and up with enough good footage to make an entire film out of. Going by the finished project, it looks like the creative team took that idea to heart, and we all know that something like that is going to be a bad idea. I mean it is one thing for fans of the actors to say or think that, but something completely different for writers and directors to go that route. So, while it is definitely fun to see these two spend significant screen time together, they have not exactly been turning in their best work over the past few years (Hide and Seek and 88 Minutes come to mind), they need a strong screenplay and direction to make a movie work. In other words, Righteous Kill fails to deliver the goods.

righteouskill3The film opens with a protracted credit sequence that watches our two stars competing with each other on the gun range with a couple different guns. Following that we move right into the plot, never looking back. We get what appears to be security camera footage of Robert Deniro as Turk, he states his name, Robert Cowan, tells of his years on the force and then admits to fourteen murders. This is when the flashback begins. Time rolls back to the start of the killing spree.

Turk and his partner's, Rooster (Al Pacino), story begins when they plant evidence on a child killer in order to garner a conviction. Shortly after this turn of events, bad guys start turning up dead, accompanied by cheesy poems describing what they did and why they deserved to die. The duo proceed to go through the investigation, all with Turk coming in with narrations from time to time, make sure we know who committed the murders.

Before long, another pair of cops get involved in the investigation, Perez (John Leguizamo) and Riley (Donnie Wahlberg). As we learn about more of the killings, all the signs all begin to point towards Turk; that is, besides him delivering the narration.

righteouskill5Now, with the noose beginning to tighten, the story can begin to get a little more "tense." Well, in a film of this sort you have to figure that there is going to be a twist. Without a twist this is one heck of a dull and pointless film, I mean you already know who the killer is so what's the point? Sadly knowing there has to be a twist means the film is still dull because within the first thirty minutes of the film you are already trying to figure out what the twist is. If you paid attention during those minutes you will likely predict what the twist will be. Them having figured the twist out well in advance of the climax, you are left wondering just how it will play out. You are probably also hoping that it plays out in an interesting fashion. Unfortunately, it does not.

Righteous Kill is a gimmick movie. It is built upon the premise of having two screen legends whose careers have been so intrinsically linked perform together in the same movie. Unfortunately, that is all they have. The screenplay by Russell Gewirtz (Inside Man) barely holds together, and if not for Deniro and Pacino would likely be unwatchable with any other pair of actors. The first two acts are dull and uneventful, and the most interesting character, Carla Gugino's Karen Corelli, is not explored enough. Also, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, is present as nothing more than a plot point.

righteouskill7Then, when the third roles around, the whole thing just flies off the rails. Our bad guy does something to "change the rules," something "you can't take back," which just turns out to be a way to allow a certain character to get involved at the end. It has no impact whatsoever on the eventual outcome of the film and the fate of the characters. It is all quite aggravating.

Jon Avnet, who also directed the abysmal 88 Minutes, does nothing to inject the film with any level of tension. He, like the screenplay, relies on the star power of the two leads to carry the weight. Fortunately, the two do have chemistry with each other, and while being in the latter stages of their careers work well together, each helping the other raise their game. In turn, these two make this somewhat watchable. However, it is not enough to save the film or make it worthy of a recommendation.

Bottomline. Predictable, boring, and sloppy; all words that can be used to describe Righteous Kill. This is a cop drama that falls way short of being worthy of the big screen treatment. Yes, Pacino and Deniro are fine together, and considering that, imagine what they could have done with a quality script and direction?

Not Recommended.


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