Seriously? Two great actors and this is what we get? Years and years of waiting and this is all there is to show? As disappointing as Jon Avnet’s “Righteous Kill,” is, it’s only truly disappointing when you consider the parties involved.
The plot is simple. In fact, almost too simple. Someone is out killing those who slip through the justice system. They might be guilty, but the evidence isn’t there to convict. However, someone seems to be picking up where a judge and jury leave off. Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro are two detectives who are on the case. Also troubled by it are fellow detectives John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg. They’re convinced the serial killer must be a cop. And their eyes turn to Pacino and DeNiro. However, each one has the other’s back. A poem is left at each crime scene. Is one of these life-long cops responsible? Does it even matter?
As the movie opens, DeNiro’s character looks straight into the camera and confesses his guilt. We then go back in time and see the beginnings of the killing spree. Is it that simple? Of course not. There’s a twist. However, by opening the film with it, all you do is sit around and wait for the inevitable switcheroo to take place. Jon Avnet, who has had a rather unremarkable career thus far, (his last film before this was “88 Minutes,”) and he has a few interesting tricks up his sleeve, however, style can’t trump substance. Showing DeNiro and Pacino in split-screen as they go through their mandated therapy is interesting, but what do we learn from it? Avnet seems to confuse cool editing with making a point. As simple as the movie is, it is still confusing at times. Avnet jumps around in time and doesn’t do a quality job. If you’re going to mess with time, at least make it clear. Someone close to the investigation is threatened, a sting is set-up and, as sure as stop-watch, the so-called ‘big finale’ comes.
Written by Russell Gewirtz, (“Inside Man,”) “Righteous Kill,” has excellent pedigree. On top of the two leads, Carla Gugino joins Wahlberg, Leguizamo and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. They’re all good, but completely let down by the script. Gugino puts up with sexual harassment from everyone else in the cast. Maybe everyone involved told themselves that this is how cops really talk, but, this isn’t a real cop movie. This is a toss off movie, something you forget 30 minutes after it ends. It doesn’t have the right to have its characters talk and act like that. And if the harassment isn’t enough, Gewirtz fills the spaces with stupid jokes that amuse everyone on-screen, but no one else.
The finale is also a bit of a letdown. If the two leads weren’t DeNiro and Pacino, Avnet and Gewirtz would have been forced to have come up with an interesting and exciting thrill. Instead they let the two actors have at each other in a way that is more plot expose than acting. Maybe if someone showed an emotion, I could get excited about it. As it is, I was bored and gave a huge sigh of relief when the plot finally creaked towards its boring ending.
I’m not deluded; I knew this wasn’t going to be a great movie. However, I did go in hoping that, perhaps, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino would have joined together to produce a simple, straight-up, thrilling cop movie.
Instead they turned out something silly, stupid, embarrassing and awkward. Good job guys. How ‘bout we stop asking when you guys are going to work together again and you never work together again. Deal? Deal. -Sam