Righteous Kill

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Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino

By Robert Patrick

Director Jon Avnet’s Righteous Kill is a rickety, defused thriller. Strictly by the numbers, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino read through Russell Gewirtz’s script like they were lazily narrating newspaper columns over a cup of coffee. No matter, flocks of moviegoers will inevitably recline in their local theatres to see the two old buzzards race around the city, gun in hand, cursing the streets like they were reenacting their older, more heralded films. It’s a shame to see these two stars align, only so that they may fall into the black hole of Avnet’s insipid storytelling.

New York City is home to Turk and Rooster (DeNiro and Pacino), two veteran detectives who have been partners for many years. Grizzled and jaded, the two friends struggle with the pathology of the streets. Worn out by years of pent up aggression, the duo find themselves hunting a serial killer whom is knocking off acquitted murderers, rapists, and criminals.

Turk, the most overtly disgruntled of the two partners, is an unpopular member of the force. In fact, Turk’s gregarious moodiness, combined with his hypersensitive no nonsense attitude, causes detectives Perez (John Leguizamo) and Riley (Donnie Wahlberg) to question his unraveling sensibilities. No matter how vehemently unpredictable Turk may be, Rooster, in a bid of confidence, stands behind his partner as a man of integrity and well being.

The murderer, who ends up killing 14 people, feels that snuffing out the scum of New York is a “righteous” duty. Because Turk is familiar with all of the deceased victims, the internal workings of the police department surmises that Turk, despite his supposed allegiance to the force, is the gun wielding lunatic due to his erroneous leads, and lack of conduct.

From here on out, Avnet paints the streets of New York with little reverie, depicting the shadows of the city as unearthly colossi. Pimps, street hustlers, drug addicts, and killers perch themselves over each unbecoming frame. The scenes of murder are quick and lethal – leaving little to the imagination. What is left to the imagination, however, is where the staunch enthusiasm of its lead actors has gone. With the stage set up for Pacino and De Niro to succeed, the two old buddies feel more worn out than the movie implies them to be. Maybe it’s a lack of interest, but our proposed protagonists are existentially void – killing any motivation we may have for the already puttering film.

The supporting cast in Righteous Kill, anchored by the lackadaisical effort of rapper 50 cent, is, to say the least, atrocious. The ending of the movie may be the final insult in a laundry list of unscrupulous plot contrivances. To wrap the whole thing up, we’re presented with flashbacks in the direction of a Scooby Doo episode, detailing exactly what we may have missed, and why.

At the beginning of Righteous Kill, I was presented with a red flag – over a dozen producers threw money at this film to get it made. Generally, when a movie has several entities tied to it, no one person trusted the equitable nature of the project. If you don’t believe me, see how well Jon Avnet’s last film did.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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