Robert De Niro and Al Pacino star as two over the hill cops named Turk and Rooster who are trying to solve a rash of vigilante style slayings committed by a serial killer who leaves poetry behind at the scene of the crime. Now I know what you’re saying, “Whoa, De Niro and Pacino? Where do I sign up?” Hold your horses though, folks. Even though it’s got De Niro and Pacino in it, it’s still pretty bad.
Righteous Kill proves the rule that the less screen time De Niro and Pacino spend together, the better the movie. Remember Godfather 2 in which both men starred, but spent no screen time together? Fucking classic. How about Heat when they only shared one scene together about halfway through the movie and then met again briefly at the end? Well, it wasn’t a classic, but it was still pretty fucking good. Now in Righteous Kill, the duo spends about 75% of the running time together and the movie is a fucking dog.
This movie is a goddamn mess. It keeps going around in circles. De Niro and Pacino visit a crime scene, banter, De Niro gets a little out of control when someone accuses him of being the killer and Pacino has to cool him off. This pattern is repeated endlessly throughout the film, making it feel more like an extended episode of Law and Order than a dynamic pairing of two of the finest acting talents of all time. The flick is also a victim of god-awful editing (most likely from post-production tampering by the producers) and one of the most obvious plot “twists” in cinema history.
What happened? I mean all the ingredients are there. You got D & P playing two grizzled cops. (Named TURK and ROOSTER for Christ’s sakes! How in the world do you fuck that up?) You got a serial killer. You got Carla Gugino liking rough sex. (Although she doesn’t show her massive mammaries… bummer.) You got a great scene where De Niro beats the shit out of rapper 50 Cent and makes chump change out of him. You got a skateboarding pimp. Seriously folks, when’s the last time you saw a skateboarding pimp in a movie, huh?
There are several reasons why the flick just flat out sucks. The biggie is that it was not directed by someone as awesome as either The G-Father 2’s Francis Ford Coppola or Heat’s Michael Mann. That’s right, instead of getting an A-Lister behind the camera; we get Jon (FUCKING FRIED GREEN TOMATOES) Avnet. This Avnet jackass also directed Pacino in the pathetically weak 88 Minutes too. What’s Avnet trying to do, purposefully derail Pacino’s career?
Another reason the flick doesn’t fly is that De Niro and Pacino just don’t really command the screen. Both guys woefully underplay each scene as if they thought that just standing side by side for 100 minutes would be enough. Their mere presence together makes the movie tolerable, but that’s not exactly a glowing compliment. A movie as boring as this one could’ve used either one of their patented over-acting. (You know like when De Niro squints up his face and repeats the same sentence over and over again or when Pacino says SENTENCES where he OVEREMPHASIZES certain words TOO MUCH.) It’s also sucks that their dialogue sounds like something a seven year old Quentin Tarantino would write. They sit there and make Brady Bunch, Underdog, and Starsky and Hutch references, but it all feels forced and phony. As the two younger cops also working on the case, John (Land of the Dead) Leguizamo and Donnie (“Look, I’m acting in a movie that’s not a Saw sequel!”) Wahlberg fare much better and have more chemistry together than De Niro and Pacino.
You might be wondering why I am still giving Righteous Kill ** instead of *. Well, as less than stellar as both De Niro and Pacino are in this movie, they’re still pretty fun to watch. You don’t get many opportunities to see them together so you might as well enjoy it while it lasts; even if the movie does suck. Their performances are only a testament to just how awful the script is. Not even the two greatest actors alive could manage to breathe life into this shit heap.