Pacino, De Niro Swagger Through Predictable NYC Cop Thriller
Review by Morgan Grice
Sept. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Al Pacino and Robert De Niro haven't co-starred in a cop flick since their gritty 1995 thriller, ``Heat.'' Fans who have eagerly awaited their reunion won't find ``Righteous Kill'' from director Jon Avnet nearly as satisfying.
Veteran New York police detectives Turk (De Niro) and Rooster (Pacino) demonstrate an almost-synchronized swagger to let us know they've been partners since the start of time.
Turk is the hothead, whose erratic temper compels him to do questionable but permissible things, like kick a seedy drug- dealer named Spider (rapper Curtis Jackson, or ``50 Cent'') repeatedly in the ribs. Rooster is his ever-loyal counterpart, with a man-of-faith ethos that balances his partner's impulsiveness.
All in all, they're good guys, two men who have given their life to each other and to the force, serving and protecting with a solid belief in the law.
As we've learned in countless cop flicks, though, the law isn't always just, and good cops aren't always squeaky clean. Very early on, we see that the duo's loyalty extends to covering up for a little bad-cop behavior. It's just the first in a string of shameless predictabilities.
Soon, the story turns to a serial killer who goes after the city's most worthless dregs after they've managed to slip through the system. At each murder site, he leaves a poem, a useless urban ditty explaining why the victim had to die. There's not much suspense here, particularly since a hooded De Niro confesses to killing some 14 people in a grainy, black-and-white monologue early on in the movie. There aren't enough skillful twists and turns to make this work.
When the two aging broncos fail to capture the poet- vigilante, the precinct's brass assigns two junior detectives (John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg) to help on the case. With a little poking around -- and the (un)stunning revelation that all the victims have some tie or another to the co-stars -- the probe quickly becomes an internal investigation.
The two young mavericks start sticking their noses where they don't belong; Turk and Rooster are sent to a shrink, and after a series of club, drug and sex scenes set to blaring music, you're more than ready for the twist you've seen coming since the start.
For their part, Leguizamo and Wahlberg give solid performances as the shafted partners whose avid rule-playing exposes their young-cop naivete.
Carla Gugino plays a sexy forensic detective who is De Niro's rough, naughty lover; she has little appeal as a character beyond her beauty. And Brian Dennehy plays the hard-nosed lieutenant who appears now and then to give the boys some tough love.
Granted, De Niro and Pacino have undeniable chemistry and experience in the genre, giving us some enjoyable moments of clever, vulgar banter and nostalgic talk of the days when their duty brought them reverence instead of disgust. Still, a little novelty would be appreciated.
``Righteous Kill'' from Overture Films opens today across the U.S. Rating: (*1/2)
What the Stars Mean:
(No stars) Worthless
(Morgan Grice is a critic for Bloomberg News in New York. The opinions expressed are her own.)
To contact the writer of this story: Morgan Grice in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated: September 12, 2008 00:01 EDT