Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are both Oscar winning actors, who many would call legendary in the business. Yet they have only been in two films together prior to 2008. They first appeared in 1974’s The Godfather, Part II, but never shared the screen. That left 1995’s Heat as the only film that has featured both actors in the same scenes together – few as they may have been. Now over a decade later, Righteous Kill was made with both De Niro and Pacino starring. This film guaranteed that there would be plenty of scenes with these two in them. However, would that actually guarantee that Righteous Kill is a good film or has time run out on these two actors?
In Righteous Kill, David “Turk” Fisk (Robert De Niro) and Thomas “Rooster” Cowan (Al Pacino) are two long-time NYPD detectives. They get lead on the investigation of a series of mysterious killings. Someone is killing criminals that have eluded the legal system including a skateboarding pimp, a gun runner, a rapist, a Catholic child-molester, and a drug trafficker. The rest of the NYPD thinks it has a string of murders with the same modus operandi (clean entry and exit, poetic calling card) more or less like their usual fare. Forensic scientist Karen Corelli (Carla Gugino) and detectives Simon Perez (John Leguizamo) and Ted Riley (Donnie Wahlberg) eventually suspect that the killer executes too efficiently to be a civilian.
De Niro and Pacino have both seen better days, and their best work appears to be behind them. So it shouldn’t be that shocking to find out that De Niro and Pacino on-screen together for the majority of this film is not as fun as it sounds. They really have nothing left to prove, and it appears that both actors are just sleep-walking through their roles. There is no real chemistry between them, especially when you hear the names Pacino and De Niro and expect much more from them. The supporting cast around them is strong, though, especially the younger detective team of John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg and De Niro’s love interest, Carla Gugino. It’s really difficult to tell if this film was actually written with Pacino and De Niro in mind as the lead roles. It would appear that it wasn’t, because the actions of their characters would have been better suited for two actors 20 years younger than De Niro and Pacino.
It doesn’t help De Niro and Pacino that they agreed to star in a weakly written film. This film is built on a big twist and an unknown vigilante killer not being revealed until the end. But right from the opening scene, it’s easy to predict who the killer actually is. Whenever a lead character confesses to be the answer to the big question surrounding an entire movie, alarms have to be going off in any educated viewer’s mind that something is not right here. So not only is Righteous Kill filled with cop thriller cliches, but it also has a predictable ending.
Now all of that being said, Righteous Kill is still watchable. It’s definitely somewhat fun to see Al Pacino and Robert De Niro on screen together. The script is nowhere near the level that Pacino or De Niro should be involved with, but the characters in this story are quite interesting. In fact, it would have been more interesting to see what this film would have been if two younger actors starred in it. Too bad that Righteous Kill favored marketing and making money over making a solid cop thriller. Everyone involved with film rolled the dice, and attempted to cash in on the big names of Pacino and De Niro in a film together after so many years. But even unspiring performances from those two actors aren’t enough to save this film from being nothing but average at best, and that’s really pushing it.
The video is given in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen color, which is enhanced for 16:9 TV. The transfer is not the greatest looking, but it is definitely above average. Colors are bright and grain is kept to a minimum. No major problems at all.
The audio included is available in either English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear. Pretty standard for a new release DVD. No major problems here either.
Audio Commentary –
There is a full-length commentary with director, Jon Avnet. It is not that entertaining nor is it as informative as one might expect. Really a below-average commentary that is not really “must-listen”.
“The Investigation: An In-Depth Look at Righteous Kill” Featurette –
This runs 14 minutes and it talks about the genesis of the production, getting De Niro and Pacino together for this film and the experience of those around them while they made this film. Fairly interesting and worth watching.
“The Thin Blue Line: An Exploration of Cops & Criminals” Featurette –
This runs 19 minutes and it’s a look at the police and criminal professions, with experts in criminology and psychology discussing the nature of those on both sides of the law. Definitely intriguing and worth watching.
De Niro and Pacino fans, or anyone curious in seeing these two actors together on screen, will want to check out Righteous Kill by renting it. But it’s really not worth a purchase for anyone. The story is just not strong enough, and De Niro and Pacino really don’t help raise the material to another level either. It was a good marketing ploy that will probably make everyone involved in the film some money, but in the end Righteous Kill won’t be remembered for very long.
Overture Films presents Righteous Kill. Directed by Jon Avnet. Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Carla Gugino, Donnie Wahlberg, John Leguizamo, and 50 Cent. Written by Russell Gewirtz. Running time: 103 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: January 6, 2008. Available at Amazon.com