Robert De Niro and Al Pacino -- has there ever been a better acting team? For the first time since 1995's Heat, the two have leading roles in the same film, and their presence has allowed Righteous Kill to build a substantial amount of buzz. While the movie doesn't live up to the anticipation, it does pack a decent punch, thanks entirely to the leading men.
When hard-boiled rapists, pedophiles, murders, and drug lords slip through the legal system, are people who take the law into their own hands criminals or heroes? Righteous Kill explores the familiar subject of vigilante killers with a slight twist. This time, the killer is a cop. Article continues below
As the movie opens, Detective Turk (De Niro) confesses to killing 14 people during his time at the NYPD homicide department. He explains that the unjust judicial system initiated and provoked his gradual spiral into insanity. It began a while back, after watching a child-killer walk away unpunished. Turk then planted evidence to frame him for a different crime. Right or wrong, justice was served. His long-time partner, Rooster (Al Pacino), knew about his actions, but didn't stand in his way.
Of course, Turk would never harm a hair on an innocent civilian's head. He targets only the city's most heinous scumbags. A cruel pimp. A pedophile priest. A notorious drug lord. He shoots the criminals at close range, leaving behind little evidence, only short poems that explain the execution. He continues the killing spree unsuspected for a while, but it's only a matter of time before his department starts to have suspicions. But are things as they seem?
First, the bad news: Righteous Kill is lucky to have De Niro and Pacino. Damn lucky, because it is greatly flawed. The film feels like it was directed by a first-timer and reeks of amateurism. Jon Avnet is an experienced producer, but he's certainly not a visionary director. It's only 100 minutes, but Righteous Kill feels much longer because of choppy, awkward pacing. Not only does this prevent the complex themes from reaching their thought-provoking potential, but it hinders the chemistry between De Niro and Pacino, which is the film's best asset. And who cast rapper 50 Cent and put him in dramatic scenes with two of the greatest actors of our time?
Now the good news: Simply put, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. They save Righteous Kill from becoming another run-of-the-mill cop movie. De Niro and Pacino make it impossible to take your eyes off the screen. These guys do not act; they transform, they become the characters, capturing every nuance, every peculiarity. You can see years of regret and moral surrender in their eyes, and watching their moral transformations is cinematically priceless. Sure, both could have picked a better movie in which to reunite, but that doesn't make their pairing any less eventful. Righteous Kill may be forgettable, but their performances are anything but.