Righteous Kill

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12 years after they first shared the screen together in Michael Mann's sublime Heat, it's a shame that De Niro and Pacino's much-anticipated reunion vehicle had to be this lazy, boring piece of dreck. There's absolutely nothing of worth in Righteous Kill in terms of substance. The screenplay does pull a clever little trick at the end, but it's rather cheap and makes the whole movie a tedious slog just to reach that point.

The story itself offers no consolations either and is devoid of any meat whatsoever. This film is such an exercise in indolence it's insulting to the audience. It's only wise move is to keep De Niro and Pacino together on screen as much as possible and just letting them do their thing. Watching the two thespians play off each other alone is worth the price of admission.

Their characters, though pretty much stock, nevertheless put them right at home turf. De Niro is Turk and Pacino is Rooster. The ridiculous nicknames notwithstanding, they are hard-boiled New York cops who've been partners, as their captain jokes, 'for a hundred years', and as De Niro quips back, 'hundred and twenty'. What a joy it is to see these two geezers, in their slick, black leather jackets and sunglasses, still cool, still bonafide badasses, throwing f-bombs and cracking wise like nobody's business.

They're clearly having a blast working together and it's evident in their effortless chemistry. The script thankfully provides them with some snappy dialogue that they toss between them with playful camaraderie and little knowing smiles and chuckles. Their act together is truly a winning, delicious performance. Both are electrifying in their individual scenes too, which is quite refreshing as for some years now, both De Niro and Pacino have taken to sleepwalking through one thankless role upon another, just to collect the fat paycheck at the end of the day. Not that great art is being created here either, but at least they're having fun making the green and it looks like they're at work.

As far as the plot goes, the department is on the trail of a serial killer who's offing lowlifes and scum (a child molester, a pimp, a pedophile priest etc.) that somehow escaped the law and roam free. The killer also leaves a crude rhyme (hilarious in their cheesiness) at every crime scene. There is reason to believe, and it is never made clear or convincing enough, that the killer is a cop. And just because of his general hard line attitude, the hotheaded Turk becomes the prime suspect. As another, younger duo of cops, played efficiently by John Laguazamo and Donnie Wahlberg, sets out to prove him guilty.

The listless screenplay is packed with whodunit-thriller and cop movie clichés. Everything, right down to the identity of the culprit is visible from miles. No loopholes, however glaring, are bothered to be covered up. Had it not been for its two stars, this film would've been straight-to-dvd fare. The whole script is just a lame excuse to bring De Niro and Pacino together. The direction by Jon Avnet is serviceable, purely in terms of technical proficiency and keeping the overall look glossy and 'hip'. His storytelling skills however are nonexistent.

In more capable hands, the film could've been a bit more energetic and less plodded. Avent also tends to forget that his protagonists are in their late 60's and shows them like young hotshots who've just joined the force, rather than the seasoned veterans they really are. They practice target-shooting with sub-machineguns (sub-machine guns??!) and work out with guys half their age in the gym.

De Niro even has a girlfriend (a delectable Carla Gugino) who must be a little older than his daughter-in-law and has a taste for some rough lovin'. I especially could do without the shot of him getting it on with her, in rear-entry position no less. (Point of note: Avnet also directed Pacino in last year's atrocious 88 Minutes. This time around however, it was De Niro who signed on to Righteous Kill first and was instrumental in bringing Pacino on board.)

On the whole, Righteous Kill is thoroughly mediocre fare in terms of story and direction. You'll be sorely disappointed if you're looking for a solid cop-thriller/whodunit. For fans of De Niro and Pacino however, and of those there are plenty, the film is a welcome treat. One only wishes the two old warhorses had a better movie around them.

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