Two of the greatest screen legends of all time unjustly find themselves holding a smoking gun with the misfire "Righteous Kill."
In their years of service on the New York Police Department, Detectives Turk and Rooster (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino) have developed a rapport both on and off the job. They have seen everything in their decades cleaning up the streets, and there have been moments in their investigations in which rules were bucked.
Their justification is that they get the job done, even though not everyone on the force agrees. When a drug bust headed by the pair goes bad, their careers are on the line, and their trustworthiness is called into question.
The friction between the two veterans and their by-the-book colleagues (John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg) pales in comparison to the wave of terror sweeping the city. A serial killer is picking off victims one by one, and the seasoned investigators are the common element behind the slayings, with Turk the prime suspect.
The team-up of De Niro and Pacino has been a long time coming - the two high-profile actors have appeared together in "The Godfather Part II" and "Heat," but in almost exclusively separate screen times. Although their coexistent casting may seem like a dream, it is a shame they do not have better material.
Although both approach their roles with vehemence, embittered Turk and jovial Rooster are much too broadly drawn to be taken seriously. This is especially true when they start riffing off of each other like a bad vaudeville act. Another good pair of actors, Leguizamo and Wahlberg, are given throw-away parts as Detectives Perez and Riley, the figureheads of an allegedly self-righteous younger generation of cops.
Oddly enough, the most realistic moments come in the smallest doses from Carla Gugino as Turk's girlfriend and fellow officer, Karen Corelli, and rapper Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson as a multiple offender named Spider. Even so, there is little to love about either of these characters, as she is addicted to sadomasochistic sex, and drug profiteering is one of his lesser crimes.
Although issues like simulated rape and pedophilia are touched upon, somehow these taboos are the least of the film's many problems. The real dilemma lies within the heavily contrived story.
Taking his cue from the recent surge of non-linear films, screenwriter Russell Gewirtz constructs a plot line that forces viewers to ignore their own intuition without any regard for logic. The early set-up for the ultimate revelation is executed with absolutely no style, and while the progress of the story starts to become interesting at the halfway point, the finale can be foreseen well before the actual ending even without the help of the obvious exposition.
True, there is no such thing as originality anymore, but this script's myriad cliches is criminal. Do everyday New Yorkers actually use the expression "How 'bout them Mets?"
How 'bout no?
"Righteous Kill" proves that even the best actors cannot salvage a truly terrible story. Hopefully, the careers of De Niro and Pacino will not be killed as a result of this wrongdoing to cinema.