The sight of De Niro and Pacino reunited should be enough to trigger the saliva glands of even the most casual of cineastes, and the fact that they do so in a crime flick, the genre that they virtually built over the last lord knows how long, should make plain sailing for Righteous Kill.
The pair team up as senior detectives Turk and Rooster, two cops on the verge of retirement, but called in to investigate the murder of a felon with ties to a case they worked on years back, which nudges them into the pursuit of a vigilante serial killer, one who’s targeting criminals that the justice system has failed to nail.
As the bodies pile up, the investigation expands, with young buck detectives Perez and Riley (John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg) getting involved and butting heads with their older colleagues. As Turk and Rooster start to railroad them, Perez and Riley face up to the conclusion that their man is a member of their own force, possibly one of the people obstructing their investigations, setting them the task of overcoming the institutionalised old boys club in order to solve the crime.
Add into the mix a love triangle between De Niro, Leguizamo and Carla Gugino’s forensics expert, for further suspicion, stir and leave to simmer.
Having such behemoths on the same screen should have at least guaranteed a fair whack of entertainment, but the problem is that the film-makers didn’t have much in the way of ambitions beyond that. As expected, the leads work incredibly well together and fill the screen with ease and poise, giving an air of assured sophistication. The issue is that major skimping has taken place on the rest of the film to accommodate them.
The other characters are given little depth or scope to develop, and there’s no time given to the film’s key moral ambiguity of deserving felons being offed, meaning that the key performances are skating on thin cinematic ice and have no wider context to fall back on. That’s weakened even further by the 15 certificate, which undermines any grit that would have made this sit comfortably with the likes of recent fare like The Departed.
This is compounded by the introduction of an psychoanalyst who’s called in to see if Turk and Rooster are still fit for the job, which makes it reflective and ponderous, when the slick opening sequence seems to suggest something altogether more dynamic. And having put all its eggs in the Pacino-De Niro basket without pursuing any depth or colour to the plot, the final third trundles into bland predictability, with the great reveal feeling rushed and simplistic.
And worst of all, not once does anyone refer to “taking out the trash”, which is poor form indeed.
Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Curtis 50 Cent Jackson.
Directed by: Jon Avnet.
Extras: director commentary, featurettes.