Righteous Kill


De Niro and Pacino keep a rickety vehicle on the rails

In the 13 years since Michael Mann’s masterly Heat, neither Robert De Niro or Al Pacino have stretched themselves much; only so far, it seems, to grab paycheques for the likes of Meet The Fockers or Ocean’s Thirteen. But give credit – these two old lions still have teeth. In fact, their presence is what near-heroically rescues Righteous Kill from the straight-to-DVD shelf.

This time, they’re on the same side of the law, as veteran New York detectives who can’t hang up their badges until they solve their latest case: a series of brutal murders that look to be the work of a vigilante targeting criminals who got off on legal technicalities. When evidence to one of the cops’ own balancing the scales of justice, their investigation goes to some uncomfortable places.

Screw the synopsis; how’s the acting? Pleasingly understated. This is no scenery-devouring ham-off, Bob and Al bringing it down a notch to stay a whisper above gravelly for most of their dialogue. True, some of their unwieldy patter – like the ongoing references to The Brady Bunch – would roll better off the tongues of Stiller and Wilson. But our grizzled duo consistently make the best of it. There are even flickers of greatness; juicy chunks of character business (being interrogated by internal affairs, or on the shrink’s couch after a gunfight) that flash you right back to the nuance and vibrancy of their classic ’70s performances.

No, the main problems lie behind the camera. The script, by Inside Man scribe Russell Gewirtz, barely gets a toehold on the ethics of vigilantism; any ‘debate’ is mostly confined to repetition of the title. Meanwhile, even M Night Shyamalan will scoff at the hokey hairpin twists that set up the finale. The direction’s even less ambitious. Jon Avnet (whose middling CV includes Red Corner, Up Close And Personal and this month’s Pacino dud 88 Minutes) manages the unbelievable, making his authentic New York-area locales look like freshly scrubbed Vancouver. As producer, he should’ve allied his money to sense and hired a helmer to match his actors’ chops – someone who could’ve padded a slim story with atmos and flair.

The support’s hit and miss. Donnie Wahlberg and John Leguizamo provide gritty ballast as dishevelled detectives who know there’s more than to the case than the protagonists are willing to admit. Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson passes muster as an entrepreneurial drug dealer, but poor Carla Gugino is saddled with an oversexed caricature of a character – an S&M-digging crime-scene ‘tec - who belongs in Sin City. The bit where Al turns her on by describing a police beating is silliness worthy of the Zucker brothers.

Righteous Kill isn’t a bad film, just… safe. Pacino and De Niro can still bring the heat, but this seen-it-before thriller is more fuzzy blanket than raging fire.



A spotty cop procedural that serves its purpose performance-wise; De Niro and Pacino have been better, but they’ve also been far, far worse. Shoring up a convoluted script and journeyman direction, their double-act is muscular enough to please the crowds.

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User Reviews

    • mallardb

      Dec 18th 2008, 14:56


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    • avfc4eva

      Feb 14th 2009, 15:48


      Complete Rubbish. Don't waste your time.

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    • Nealsreviews1

      May 12th 2009, 15:21


      Its been over ten years since the stars have lined up & we once again have arguably the two greatest american actors of the 20th century come together to do a film Al Pacino & Robert Deniro. Unlike Heat this time they are compadre’s in John Avnet’s Righteous Kill. I have been waiting a long time for this to come out being a huge fan of Avnet’s work he made one of my favorite films “Less Than Zero". A serial killer walks the streets of New york City putting a target on criminals who have fallen through the cracks of the justice system. All the victims are suspected felons whose bodies are found with a poetic note only four lines long justifying the killing. The murderers mission is what the cops do on their own rid the streets of criminals for good. When the kingpin pimp becomes the killers victim highly respected detectives Turk & Rooster are called in to solve the case. This one could be the biggest of their careers with help from a local dealer they follow what little clues they come across. As the investigation gets deeper not everything appears as it seems & they realize the killer may be one of their own. Pacino & Deniro give an incredible performance as two loyal cops torn between friendship & morality. Surprisingly Curtis Jackson aka (50 Cent) does a decent job as head drug dealer. The film plays on just about every human emotion from loyalty to betrayal. A very pyschological roller coaster ride with suspense along the way. Neal Damiano Film Critic

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