BY ELIOT HAGEN
When I bought tickets to “Righteous Kill,” I was skeptical as to its quality. The prospect of putting Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in the same movie together (again) sounded like the same star-vehicle scheme that studios pulled when they made such turkeys as “The Forbidden Kingdom” and “Basic.” While my suspicions were correct, the film wasn’t terrible. Just not something you’d watch twice.
In typical cop drama form, De Niro and Pacino play a team of aging detectives on the trail of a serial killer who dispatches criminals who happen to slip through the cracks in the justice system. Assuming the killer to be a disenchanted police officer, we see tensions rise to a boiling point between the veteran detectives and two overly ambitious young detectives (played by John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg). The movie also features Curtis Jackson (50 Cent) playing (big surprise) a drug dealer and club owner, but he only has a few minutes of screen time.
Russell Gewirtz’ (“Inside Man”) script doesn’t shine, but it’s not terrible. There are several good scenes, some quick wit, but it’s nothing spectacular. The same thing goes for the direction, cinematography and scoring.
Anyone going to see this movie is going for two reasons: De Niro and Pacino. Their performances are quite good, but nothing like what they’ve done before. They’re certainly the highlight of the movie, but they aren’t good enough to warrant a second viewing.
With ham-handed attempts at creating a love triangle and some parts that are completely incongruous with the rest of the plot, the pacing and overall progression of the plot suffers from being inconsistent in terms of quality and importance. The worst part of the movie was the ending. In movies like this, the ending is the most important part. That’s when the twist comes and when everything is revealed. That’s when the plot passes the point of no return. In this movie, however, the ending is comprised of a rather gratuitous (not graphic—just inconsequential) rape scene, a good twist and a terrible denouement that leaves the viewer unfulfilled.
The thing is that the movie does nothing to break free of the generic cop drama formula. There’s a bit of a love interest (Carla Gugino), a tough but fair police chief (Brian Dennehy), and, of course, the requisite twist. The problem with the “twist” factor is that experienced viewers will spend the entire movie trying to guess the twist. This movie does something different that made the twist a bit more surprising, but despite that and good performances from its stars, the film is only slightly above average.
If you’re in the market for a cop drama, you could see this or watch an episode of “Law & Order.” You’ll get pretty much the same experience out of both.