Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Righteous Kill


Review by Patrick Hodges

Riddle me this:  how many Hollywood icons does it take to screw up a by-the-numbers cop drama?  Okay, that’s a little harsh.  Because honestly, Righteous Kill is not a terrible movie because of Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino.  It is a terrible movie in spite of them.

Director Jon Avnet (who directed Pacino earlier this year in the flop 88 Minutes) has just taken his place in my Top 10 Worst Directors in the business today.  I’m sure there are others to blame as well for the cliché-ridden script, the shoddy camera work and the piss-poor editing that went into making this movie, but I’m quite comfortable blaming him.

I have spent the last 25 years watching ironclad performances from Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, performances worthy of remembrance, of honor, of respect.  I even conducted a poll asking people what their favorite-ever film featuring these two actors was, it should come as no surprise that more than a dozen films were named for each of them.  Such is the quality of these two legends’ legacies.

But asking them to make an enjoyable film out this quagmire of awful is akin to giving a five-star chef a loaf of Wonder bread, a package of Oscar Meyer bologna and a jar of Miracle Whip and asking him to prepare a gourmet meal.  Bottom line:  if they couldn’t save it, no one could.

Stories about cops investigating a series of serial murders are not exactly an innovative premise, and neither are stories about vigilante killings, where the victims are all dangerous offenders.  Given the right director, I’m sure that the story could have been made in such a way to make it entertaining, given the caliber of talent involved.  Instead, we got multiple monologues by the movie’s principal actors; camera-work that may have seemed like an attempt to be dramatic or cutting-edge in the editing room, but just ended up appearing ridiculous on screen; and dialogue that felt like it could have been written by a high-schooler who just watched Goodfellas for the first time.  Not only that, there was zero character-development in Righteous Kill, no attempt to make the characters sympathetic or worthy of our affections, and when the “killer” is finally revealed, we are not only not surprised, but we have completely ceased to care. 

I would strongly advise anyone reading this review to not see this film, particularly if you are someone who has enjoyed and marveled at the broad spectrum of cinematic classics involving DeNiro and Pacino for the last three decades.  In whatever format you choose, see Casino again.  Or Serpico.  Or The Untouchables.  Or Scarface.  Just not this.  If you don’t want to sully your memories of two Hollywood giants at their best, avoid Righteous Kill like the proverbial plague.

1 / 5 stars

Review by Matthew Frendo

There's a point in Righteous Kill where Rooster (Al Pacino) is telling Turk (Robert De Niro) about how he lost his faith in the job when Turk had planted a weapon to get a conviction on a child killer.  He says that since he saw the best cop he knew (speaking of Turk) plant a weapon, he lost his whole faith in everything.  Funny thing is, I want to tell DeNiro the same thing in regards to his acting.  I once loved DeNiro's work.  In fact, he was my favorite actor for years.  But ever since I saw The Score, I've lost faith in his acting, and in Hollywood in general.  His work since then has repeatedly proven that sentiment correct.
Don't get me wrong, both actors are decent in Righteous Kill.  The problem is that, for both, decent just doesn't cut it.  Granted, they didn't have a whole lot to work with this time around.  The script, by Russell Gewirtz (best known for penning the surprisingly good Inside Man), is mediocre at best, with some lines bordering on ridiculous.  One prime example that comes to mind is when a character exclaims something to the effect of "a cop serial killer!?  Who ever heard of that?", as if Showtime's Dexter hasn't been running for three years at this point.  The quote is basically the premise of the film: someone's killing bad guys, they think it's a cop, and all eyes are pointed on Turk.
If the writing was mediocre, the direction was far below.  Jon Avnet (88 Minutes, Fried Green Tomatoes) has what I call Tarantino's disease.  Symptoms of this ailment include: trying to make a film "cool" as opposed to "good", using different editing techniques in an attempt to make it "inventive" (though it comes across as hackneyed), and a willingness to portray violence as a commendable character trait.  Many directors succumb to this disease, and, to be honest, Righteous Kill is better than many of the movies made by such directors.  It's just not worthy of the talents involved.
If you want to see Pacino and DeNiro together, you're better off sticking to Heat.  While, even when mediocre, their acting is fun to watch, and makes the movie better than it would've otherwise, it's still not up to the level they should be at.  Let's just hope that one day they find a director who can use their talents to a better end, as this would be a forgettable last hurrah to their screen legacies.
2 ½ / 5 stars

Comments (1):

  • Eoin @ 09/15/2008 ( 5:33:49 AM )
    What a review: you go, girl! I will be taking your advice and avoiding RK like the plague.
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