Righteous Kill


Robert De Niro as Turk
Al Pacino as Rooster
50 Cent as Spider
Carla Gugino as Karen Corelli
John Leguizamo as Det. Simon Perez
Donnie Wahlberg as Det. Ted Riley
Brian Dennehy as Lt. Hingis
Trilby Glover as Jessica
Saidah Arrika Ekulona as Gwen Darvis
Alan Rosenberg as Stein
Sterling K. Brown as Rogers
Barry Primus as Prosky
Melissa Leo as Cheryl Brooks
Alan Blumenfeld as Martin Baum
Oleg Taktarov as Yevgeny Mugalat

The guilty pleasure of seeing two masters like Pacino and De Niro play off each other for 90 minutes falls short of overcoming the sloppy writing in this cop drama that you might solve well before the filmmakers intend for you to.

A pair of seasoned cops, Turk and Rooster, are on the case when a serial killer with a vigilante streak starts bumping off bad guys in New York City. Teamed up with younger detectives Perez and Riley and assisted by crime scene specialist Karen Corelli, the duo work to uncover the killer’s identity with little more to go on than a poem left as a calling card at the scene of each crime.

The Good:
Fans of De Niro and Pacino have been waiting for this movie since the pair shared limited screen time in 1995’s “Heat.” There is some good interplay between the two, and some great one-liners to boot… but you’ll be left wondering how much better it could have been with a better story and if it was filmed about 15 years ago, when the pair had more spring in their step.

The supporting cast is good enough here. Anytime is a good time to see Carla Gugino on screen, especially when she’s playing a sex-crazed crime scene investigator. Both Leguizamo and Wahlberg are passable as the young cops who believe that De Niro’s Turk is the man behind the killings.

The story of “Righteous Kill” is not terrible… it is passable, but suffers even more by some questionable execution by director Jon Avnet.

The Bad:
It is almost impossible to get into this without spoiling the movie… so be warned. I am going to spoil the movie. If you do not want to be spoiled, turn away now. Ok.

Wanna know why De Niro and Pacino are called Turk and Rooster? Because the mere fact of knowing their true names spoils the movie! The first scene of the film is a grainy video shot of De Niro in full confession mode. He starts… “My name is David Fisk. I’ve been a cop for over 30 years, and during that time I’ve killed 14 people.” …or something to that effect. So right away, Avnet is telling you who the killer is… right? Well, no.

The video of Turk, which looks like a confession is later revealed to be a tape from a nightclub’s closed circuit video system near the film’s climax. Turk has found a notebook he is encouraged to read. It is the reading of the notebook (a gift from a shrink) that reveals the killer’s identity and it is the reading where the above line comes from. Now… here is the problem.

Avnet has placed several of these ‘confession’ clips of Turk from the club scene throughout the film. Each time he is looking dead into the camera, like a confessing killer likely would. However, all of the info he is spouting is new to him and is coming off the pages of a notebook. So in each of these ‘confession’ shots, he should be looking down, reading the information aloud. This effect would of course ruin the entire set up of Turk as the killer, but it HAD to have happened that way.

At first I felt this was just a nitpick of mine, but the more I thought about it the more I felt that it was more than that. This fact distorts the entire backbone of the movie and in the end is just poor filmmaking.

While the teaming of Pacino and De Niro is first class, you get the feeling these guys are just going through the paces… not really playing characters as much as characitures of their own personas. Sometimes it’s fine… other times, not so much.

The script should also carry much of the blame for the mediocre feel of the film. Screenwriter Russell Gewirtz (“Inside Man”) should have paid more attention to the ‘Star Chamber’-esque story and not been so enamored with the set-up of the ultimate twist in the film… which I had figured out about half-way through.

The Verdict:
I’m going to fall short of recommending a trip to the theater for this one. It probably would be a decent enough rainy day rental, but with its solid cast you would expect more than that. “Righteous Kill” is not a terrible film… it’s just not a very good one.