Saturday 8 September 2018

Movie Review: Righteous Kill (2008)

A police drama featuring two veteran acting heavyweights, Righteous Kill wastes its cast on a tired and lacklustre premise and a dreadful twist.

A grainy tape appears to show police detective Turk (Robert De Niro) confessing to a series of extrajudicial murders, violently disposing of criminals who escape the law. In flashback, it is revealed that Turk (Robert De Niro) and fellow veteran detective Rooster (Al Pacino) have been partners for a long time, with Turk frequently combustible and Rooster more laidback. Turk blows steam through a sex-only relationship with detective Karen Corelli (Carla Gugino), who likes her intercourse sessions on the rough side.

A while back Turk resorted to planting evidence to apprehend a rapist and killer who had cheated the justice system. Soon thereafter, the murders of other criminals start. A short poem is left at the scene of each crime, earning the serial killer the moniker "Poetry Boy". With Lieutenant Hingis (Brian Dennehy) demanding answers, Turk and Rooster alternately cooperate and clash with younger detectives Perez (John Leguizamo) and Riley (Donnie Wahlberg). Suspicion begins to swirl around Turk, but the murder rate only accelerates.

De Niro and Pacino co-starred in the stellar Heat, but here they share many more scenes and are often on the screen together. 30 years prior they were two of the most celebrated and intense actors on the planet, and it's testament to their talent and endurance that Righteous Kill only matters because they are in it.

But that's where any notions that this is a good film come to a grinding and comprehensive stop. Directed by Jon Avnet and written by Russell Gewirtz, Righteous Kill is devoid of tension, suspense, action or any semblance of artistry. The murders are mechanical, soulless and mostly presented in a context vacuum, and the premise of cops turning into killers to clean up the mistakes of the justice system was old back in the 1970s.

The rest of the movie consists of anywhere between two and five cops on the screen talking, bickering and regurgitating the same arguments. They insult each other and get in each other's faces before sullenly going off to the next murder scene. Rinse and repeat. The robotic scenes are only interrupted by Turk's narrated confession on a grainy recording, a set-up for a cheap movie trick that would have been rejected in an introductory scriptwriting class. Rather than rescue the film, the twist ending buries it deeper in the dustbin.

Watching De Niro and Pacino is never less than worthwhile; it's such a pity that this collaboration arrived so late, and on such a righteously feeble project.

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