Monday, October 13, 2008

Righteous Kill

The Action Mutant…
believes the Nazis might be…RIGHT BEHIND THIS WALL! HOO-AHH!!!

Righteous Kill

review by Joe Burrows

DeNiro and Pacino. A time not too long ago, their upcoming roles were looked at as cinematic events upon themselves. Now, they’re on the short list of Frank Caliendo’s five best impersonations. As funny as those impersonations are (Pacino, particularly), its still a bit disheartening considering both are supposedly “the greatest actors of our generation”, to use a cliché. Many say the cracks started to show after Pacino belted his first “HOO-AHH!” or when DeNiro played the most unlikely Frankenstein ever (yes, even more unlikely than Peter Boyle). The last 10-15 years have seen both in high profile variations on the same act: Pacino screaming & bugged eyed and beyond reproach; DeNiro playing the same, Bickle-esque mook/psychopath. Sure, its still amusing at times & the two still branch out from time to time (Looking for Richard for Al, Wag the Dog for Bobby) but those were little seen tomes in their careers. The little time capsule that every film fanatic seems to hold on to is the pair’s six minute scene they share in Michael Mann’s epic Heat. I’m sure that every armchair director had to be thinking to themselves since the first time they saw that scene, “I wonder what a film would be like where they were together the whole movie!” Well, guess what? After seeing Righteous Kill, you won’t have to. And that’s a shame.

The Plot, as it was:
Al and Bobby play Rooster & Turk (and there is a reason for that), two veteran detectives of the NYPD that are your typical odd couple. Rooster’s the laconic type that watches the chips fall where they may, while Turk is the slightly bent, right all wrongs hardass that doesn’t go by the book. The duo is on the trail of a serial killer that seems to be offing people that both have busted over the years, only to see those people go free on a technicality. Everything seems par for the course until the possibility is brought up that it could be a cop doing the killing. All signs point to a “Turk”ey shoot but it can’t be that obvious, right? Right…?

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
I wish I could say Righteous Kill is just merely bad. I wish I could say that both leads break into their usual histrionics & take the viewer on an over the top show. It would be a lot easier than explaining the real reasons why RK fails to hit the mark. The main problem is everything is…just there. If not for the stature of the film’s leads, Kill could pass as a direct-to-DVD or TV movie, only with saltier language. Director Jon Avnet (88 Minutes, which was Pacino’s last vehicle) and writer Russell Gerwitz (Inside Man) infuse no life into well tread territory (aside from the obligatory, opening credit montage), as some better craftsmen would have at least made it seem somewhat fresh. Of course, they had two very capable leads to pick up the slack and…well, they were just there, too! DeNiro only wakes up every now and again, namely when the script calls for him to be angry. He approaches the old pro standard of “hitting the marks” but that’s about it, as he hardly does anything memorable. Pacino’s “crazy man” act only really shows up in the final third & even then, it seemed stunted. Any instances of resonance that the two add to their characters are few & far between. The scenes in which the two are together work well but the dynamic can only do so much. The story does no favors for the supporting cast, as serviceable work by Carla Gugino, John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg, Brian Dennehy and even Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, is totally wasted at every turn. The much criticized twist ending is decent at best but would have probably gone over better if it weren’t just trailed by 85 minutes of mediocrity. If Heat had never existed, Righteous Kill might have come off even better than it really is but probably not by much.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Ajay Naidu (Samir in Office Space) is Dr. Chadrabar.

Body Count/Violence: 13. Being a standard cop thriller, this has standard cop thriller violence. Some bloody gunshots and after-the-fact corpses are the norm here, as well as a beating. One particular kill is punctuated by a very obvious dummy being tossed through a window.

Sexuality/Nudity: Sex and S&M fun is implied but not shown. Gugino is shown in her bra & Trilby Glover has her clothes torn at but that’s it. A male corpse’s bare backside is show at a crime scene, if you’re into that sort of deal.

Language/Dialogue: About one thing that can be agreed upon is that both DeNiro & Pacino are involved, vulgarities will be prevalent. Plenty of F-word usage abounds, along with other choice words (Needle Dick?).

How bad was it?:
A Pacino film hasn’t been this universally panned since…well, 88 Minutes! Seriously, the reviews could be used in conjunction with McDonalds’ next promotion. “Find a positive review of Righteous Kill on your next Value Meal and win a free cookie!” Hey, it can’t be a million bucks because the odds would at least be 1 in 75. Regardless, **1/2 is about as glowing as a review can get for this flick.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Overture Films & Millennium Films released the $60 million Righteous Kill on 9/12/08 (a year after principle photography finished) and saw it thud in a typically abysmal, post-Summer weekend in 3rd place with $16.3 million. It dropped out of the top 10 by the end of the month and is currently standing at $38.8 million (with an equally blah $2.9 million overseas gross tacked on, for a total of $41.7 million). This performance, despite mounds of hype ads proclaiming the teaming of the two leads for the first time in thirteen years. Although one can’t blame the studio for shamelessly plugging that angle for all its worth, did they really need to use The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” during the early TV ads that were put out? C-mon, don’t give the audience’s hopes up by having them wax nostalgic for Scorsese. Some cinematic crimes SHOULD be punishable by law!

Film: **/*****
Entertainment value: ***/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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