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Righteous Kill

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Righteous Kill

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary with Director Jon Avnet; The Investigation: An In-depth Look at Righteous Kill; The Thin Blue Line: The darker side of police force.

THE on-screen pairing of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro seems to be operating by the law of diminishing returns. First up was Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece, The Godfather: Part II, in which they didn’t actually share any time.

Then came Michael Mann’s Heat, a mesmerising cop versus robber thriller that put them together for a cup of coffee and not more besides.

Now they’re playing partners in John Avnet’s Righteous Kill and despite getting to hang out together, the buzz factor just isn’t the same.

It’s not so much that Avnet’s thriller is a bad film; merely an average one. A routine potboiler and whodunnit undermined by a badly botched ending.

Highly decorated New York City detectives Turk (De Niro) and Rooster (Pacino) are counting down the days to retirement until a serial killer begins picking off suspected criminals the law cannot touch. Leaving poems at each crime scene, it doesn’t take long before the police realise they’re searching for one of their own.

But as the evidence increasingly points towards Turk himself, will he be able to keep one step ahead and prove his innocence?

Righteous Kill actually begins very brightly and thrives on the chemistry between the two veterans. They clearly enjoy being paired together and this feelgood factor rubs off on the audience too.

But while the very best legal thrillers exist in moral grey zones or provide their protagonists with ethical dilemmas (witness Pacino’s own sterling work in Insomnia), Avnet’s only really ever scratches the surface and is undermined by some pedestrian direction that feels better suited to a below-par TV law show.

Pacino and De Niro try their best to elevate proceedings and are leant sterling support by the likes of John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg, as rival detectives, and Brian Dennehy, as their boss, but almost everyone feels cheated by the contrived nature of the supposedly twist ending.

Having entertained for large parts, Avnet cannot prevent the film from reaching a major anti-climax, delivering a truly preposterous resolution that threatens to undermine much of what’s come before. In doing so, he also neglects to really challenge his leading duo.

Fans of Heat may detect a certain irony in the way things play out but they’ll probably be too busy lamenting the missed opportunity because, at the end of the day, Righteous Kill squanders the presence of two of Hollywood’s most formidable talents.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 101mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 16, 2009