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Ava Sehoyan and Katarina RothhornOctober 3, 2023

De Niro, Pacino film a let-down

Film: Righteous Kill

Director: Jon Avnet

Producers: Jon Avent, Rob Cowan, Boaz Davidson

Writer: Russell Gerwirtz

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Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, 50 Cent, Carla Gugino, John Leguizamo

Runtime: 101 minutes

Rating: R


While Robert De Niro and Al Pacino have worked together a couple of times before, “Righteous Kill” is the first time they’ve spent the majority of their screen time side-by-side. At first, pairing up two Hollywood legends might seem like a great idea. However, that’s where the brilliance ends and what’s left seems to be nothing more than caricatures of previous De Niro and Pacino characters

A serial killer is stalking the streets of New York, preying on criminals who’ve managed to finagle their way out of prison. At each crime scene, the killer leaves his calling card: a short, rhyming poem describing why the criminal was killed. Heading up the investigation are long time partners Turk (De Niro) and Rooster (Pacino). They’re joined by Turk’s lover and crime scene investigator Karen Corelli (Carla Gugino) and fellow NYPD detectives Simon Perez (John Leguizamo) and Ted Riley (Donnie Wahlberg). What seems to be a simple investigation soon turns into a game where everyone is suspect, including cops.

There really is no fault to be had with the acting. Pacino and De Niro both deliver fine performances. They may not be at the top of their game, but they prove they both have films left in them. Gugino, who tends to be a good actress, does her best to rise above the mediocre script. Wahlberg looks like he’ll have a steady career as a character actor specializing in detectives, while Leguizamo is capable in the role of Perez. 50 Cent plays local gangster-wannabe Spider. It’s not a great performance, but given 50’s inability to form a coherent sentence or pronounce his lines, it’s not bad.

The problem with “Righteous” is found in the script. Writer Russell Gewirtz takes his material very seriously, although some of the plot points may raise a few eyebrows. The fact that the killer is leaving poems on what look to be Post-it notes is enough to be considered superfluous. I don’t have a problem with a killer playing cat-and-mouse with the police, but are poems really necessary? They don’t heighten the suspense or take the audience out of the film. When serial killers taunt the police, it should be done in a way that chills the audience.

The film’s finale, which I’m sure Gewirtz saw as a real shocker, was completely predictable; I even laughed when I heard someone gasp at the revelation of the killer.

Below all the actual workings of the film, “Righteous” poses some moral and ethical dilemmas. What are the limits a cop must adhere to in order to get justice? Is vigilante justice justifiable? The answers are strictly up to the viewer. “Righteous” seems confused, though, with what it wants to say since neither Turk nor Rooster embody the epitome of police procedure. De Niro doesn’t have the least problem planting evidence on someone if it means it will guarantee a conviction, while Pacino’s conscience bothers him slightly more. Perhaps Gewirtz is also torn about what is right and wrong in the field of law and justice. It would seem he thinks some situations are OK for vigilante justice and stepping outside the law, while others do not call for it.

One could do worse than “Righteous Kill.” One could also do a lot better. It’s not a bad film to see at a matinee. The acting’s decent and the action is fair, as long as one doesn’t mind a poorly written script and predictable ending. The best bet would be to wait until it hits DVD. Those just looking to see Pacino and De Niro will probably be entertained. For others, the bad outweighs the good.

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