Riddle me this: how many Hollywood icons does it take to screw up a by-the-numbers cop drama? Okay, that’s a little harsh. Because honestly, Righteous Kill is not a terrible movie because of Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. It is a terrible movie in spite of them.
Director Jon Avnet (who directed Pacino earlier this year in the flop 88 Minutes) has just taken his place in my Top 10 Worst Directors in the business today. I’m sure there are others to blame as well for the cliché-ridden script, the shoddy camera work and the piss-poor editing that went into making this movie, but I’m quite comfortable blaming him.
I have spent the last 25 years watching ironclad performances from Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, performances worthy of remembrance, of honor, of respect. When I started this week’s poll, which asked people what their favorite-ever film featuring these two actors was, it should come as no surprise that more than a dozen films were named for each of them. Such is the quality of these two legends’ legacies.
But asking them to make an enjoyable film out this quagmire of awful is akin to giving a five-star chef a loaf of Wonder bread, a package of Oscar Meyer bologna and a jar of Miracle Whip and asking him to prepare a gourmet meal. Bottom line: if they couldn’t save it, no one could.
Stories about cops investigating a series of serial murders are not exactly an innovative premise, and neither are stories about vigilante killings, where the victims are all dangerous offenders. Given the right director, I’m sure that the story could have been made in such a way to make it entertaining, given the caliber of talent involved. Instead, we got multiple monologues by the movie’s principal actors; camera-work that may have seemed like an attempt to be dramatic or cutting-edge in the editing room, but just ended up appearing ridiculous on screen; and dialogue that felt like it could have been written by a high-schooler who just watched Goodfellas for the first time. Not only that, there was zero character development in Righteous Kill, no attempt to make the characters sympathetic or worthy of our affections, and when the “killer” is finally revealed, we are not only not surprised, but we have completely ceased to care.
I would strongly advise anyone reading this review to not see this film, particularly if you are someone who has enjoyed and marveled at the broad spectrum of cinematic classics involving DeNiro and Pacino for the last three decades. In whatever format you choose, see Casino again. Or Serpico. Or The Untouchables. Or Scarface. Just not this. If you don’t want to sully your memories of two Hollywood giants at their best, avoid Righteous Kill like the proverbial plague.
1 / 5 stars