Directed by Jon Avnet. Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Curtis Jackson, Carla Gugino, John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg, Brian Dennehy. (2008, R, 101 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 19, 2008
There's nothing righteous about this tired and tiresome good cop/bad cop NYPD procedural from Avnet; in fact, it's pretty much an abomination from the get-go. Playing on filmgoers' memories of De Niro and Pacino's salad days, when all they had to do was squint (the former) and howl (the latter) to indicate the hair-raisingly visceral emotions (now ill-shuttered behind their too-tight flesh-masks), Righteous Kill instead shows us a jokey pair of grumpy old men, both of them horny SOBs with semicurdled souls, and neither so far from the treacherous edge of criminality that they aren't able to plant evidence to make sure a bad guy who might otherwise get off scot-free goes down for the deed he didn't do. This isn't Richard Price's lyrically seedy bad-boy boroughs, nor does it recall the scabrous dog days of Sidney Lumet's mid-Seventies tenement tenure or even Spike Lee's racially supercharged Crooklyn. Here, absolutely nobody does the right thing, from Avnet – whose direction is filled with slo-mo, freeze-fades, and other annoyances – to screenwriter Russell Gerwirtz, who frames the story with De Niro's not-so-young Detective Turk (get it?) "confessing" his role in the murder of 14 lowlifes, who, in his presumption, we're all better off without. He's Travis Bickle's gutter-cleansing moral monsoon made flesh, a real rain of black-jacketed ballistics washing the scum off the streets for good. Pacino's Detective Rooster (get it?) is the presumptive good cop, but he's also covering up for his partner, while softball blue boys Wahlberg and Leguizamo sniff around and eventually begin to smell the raging bullshit. About the only actors who get off with a light sentence here are Spy Kids' Gugino, as an S&M-loving CSI sex-bomb (she's a goofy, sexy hoot), and Dennehy, who I'm letting off on personal recognizance because, you know, he's Brian friggin' Dennehy, for chrissakes. Everyone else gets a week in the Tombs with a copy of Lush Life and a stinky tennis ball.