Righteous Kill (2008)

(In theaters, September 2008) Fans have been waiting for a true DeNiro/Pacino match-up since their all-too-brief common scene in Heat, but it’s not a B-series vehicle like Righteous Kill that will satisfy them. Not that any film starring those two is any guarantee of quality these days, as the two men seem perfectly happy on playing their own caricature. Pacino’s always good for a hoo-ha moment or two, but DeNiro’s sliding fast toward irrelevance, and this film won’t do much to change prevailing wisdom. But never mind the creepy Gugino/DeNiro on-screen pairing: the worst thing about this film is from the script: It’s the blatant lying that frames the picture that gets old real fast, as the film withhold just enough details to make it obvious that we’re not watching the entire story, leading to a painfully predictable conclusion and a far too long third act that can’t resist exploiting a female character’s vulnerability for no good reason. What’s really annoying is that Righteous Kill does have a few good ideas rattling around: the material about how “everyone respects the badge” offers a grittier view of men in uniform than most police thrillers, but what could have been a really fascinating theme in a stronger picture seems wasted in a routine potboiler. Much like the lead actors, Righteous Kill is a pale shadow of what could have been.

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