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Righteous Kill *
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rossiter Drake*

righteous.jpg
The long-awaited reunion of Robert De Niro and
Al Pacino takes a sour turn in Righteous Kill.

RIGHTEOUS KILL
(Courtesy of SFStation.com)

Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Curtis Jackson, Carla Gugino, John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg. Rated R.

Beyond a five-minute coffee date in Michael Mann’s Heat, the pairing of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino has remained nothing more than a tantalizing possibility. (The two shared top billing in The Godfather: Part II, but nary a minute of screen time.) Now, as both actors enter the twilight of their careers – without much inclination, it seems, to discriminate between good scripts and bad – they join forces to pursue a serial killer in the turgid thriller Righteous Kill.

What were they thinking? Were De Niro and Pacino so determined to work together and so starved for inspiration that they chose to put their names on the line to rescue this perfunctory mess from a well-deserved straight-to-DVD future? Or did they actually believe that their incessant, halfhearted mugging and hammy repartee could invigorate this dismal slog? De Niro’s once-menacing scowl, which has become a cliché in its own right, now looks more like something that could be remedied with Metamucil.

Jon Avnet’s latest (after last spring’s 88 Minutes, another paycheck Pacino would have been wise to turn down) is often laughably bad, and it is dismaying to watch two actors of substance struggle to lend weight to screenwriter Russell Gewirtz’s painfully familiar melodrama. De Niro plays Turk, a hotheaded New York City detective who still takes his job seriously enough, after three decades, to turn every investigation into a personal crusade. It’s up to Rooster (Pacino), his sardonic partner and best friend, to rein him in when he lurches into overdrive.

If Turk and Rooster sound like stock characters from a late-night movie of the week, well, the shoe fits. There’s a vigilante on the loose, of course, one who dispatches his victims with three bullets and a poetic calling card. (“It’s not iambic pentameter,” a detective observes, “but it rhymes.”) All signs suggest it’s an inside job, a cop turned rogue executioner, and Turk’s videotaped confession, which serves as the framework for this exercise in self-important silliness, leaves little to the imagination. Still, doubts persist.

Righteous Kill is a tired pastiche of genre clichés and ideas borrowed from other D-grade thrillers, a story without style, energy or any discernible respect for narrative logic. (Avnet’s arbitrary camerawork – the man’s love of extreme close-ups is second to none – adds little to the proceedings.) It ends, as one might suspect, with a standoff between De Niro and Pacino that reminds us not of their tense, richly nuanced exchange in Heat, but of the potential squandered by this latest bit of good-cop bad-cop banality.

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