Sunday, September 21, 2008

Righteous(ly) Kill this load of crap

Academy Award winners Robert De Niro and Al Pacino star as a pair of veteran New York City police detectives on the trail of a vigilante serial killer in the adrenaline fueled psychological thriller Righteous Kill. The cast also features hip-hop superstar Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. After 30 years as partners in the pressure cooker environment of the NYPD, highly decorated Detectives David Fisk and Thomas Cowan should be ready for retirement, but aren’t. Before they can hang up their badges, they are called in to investigate the murder of a notorious pimp, which appears to have ties to a case they solved years before. Like the original murder, the victim is a suspected criminal whose body is found accompanied by a four line poem justifying the killing. When additional crimes take place, it becomes clear the detectives are looking for a serial killer, one who targets criminals that have fallen through the cracks of the judicial system. His mission is to do what the cops can’t do on their own—take the culprits off the streets for good. The similarities between the recent killings and their earlier case raise a nagging question: Did they put the wrong man behind bars?

De Niro and Pacino can’t be denied. They are great actors. But that doesn’t mean all you have to do is put them in a film together and be done. Avnet is not Martin Scorsese, just look at his previous work which included Fried Green Tomatoes. The immediate confession of De Niro sets the motions in place, and everything that follows seems obvious. In fact, I could have used less “story” and more banter between the two. We’ve been hanging on every word De Niro and Pacino have said over the years, but with the focus on odd and again, obvious twists and turns there wasn’t enough time to sit back and watch two of the greatest film actors of all time. Righteous Kill dismisses most of the wit for macho bluster and a surprise you can see coming down the turnpike. While there's no point in commenting that De Niro and Pacino are playing calcified versions of their once-great selves, at least Pacino is more reserved than usual — a welcome change. But between the film's police-procedural minutiae and trite thematic concerns (the weight of Catholic guilt, the thin moral line between cop and crook), Righteous Kill isn't so much bad as it is played out. No wonder the film's faded stars seem to fit right in. This one just wasn't worth it. I felt like i was sitting through 88 Minutes all over again. A definite 2 on my "Go See" scale

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