Release Date: Sept. 12
Director: Jon Avnet
Writer: Russell Gerwitz
Cinematographer: Denis Lenoir
Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson), John Leguizamo, Carla Gugino
Studio/Run Time: ?Overture Films, 100 mins.
In Double Indemnity,
one of the classic film noirs directed by Billy Wilder, the main character’s
voice-over is explained through a Dictaphone recording.As he tells the story we watch it unfold, a
grim stylized version of the story that comes from his point of view. Righteous Kill updates this framing
device for the 21st century.Turk (Robert De Niro) speaks into a video recording device of some sort,
explaining away a rash of killings coming from a serial killer likely connected
to the police force. The film’s goal is
to understand why he cracked and why his partner, Rooster (Al Pacino) stayed,
for the most part, on the legal side of crime-fighting.
The noir trappings aren’t just in the voice-over, though, as
this is a classic genre work through and through.Subtlety is thrown out the window in favor of
mild exploitation and a hardboiled attitude.Unfortunately, director Jon Avnet doesn’t quite have the chops for the
genre, which is harder than it looks to pull off correctly—especially in
color.Because of this, at times Righteous moves a little
schizophrenically between the post-Tarantino crime film and the 1930s original,
and this shakiness doesn’t help with the film’s occasionally shaky writing.It gets the job done, but it’s a little
ramshackle despite nearly constant stylization.
What Righteous is undeniably about, though, is its leads.For better or worse, De Niro and Pacino both play the same character
that they’ve been drifting into more and more with their later works.It’s exactly what audiences have learned to
expect, and they play these roles pitch perfectly; just don’t expect either of
them to stretch themselves.For a film that
leans so heavily on its characters, Righteous
also fails to differentiate them particularly well, but given its twist,
this can perhaps be forgiven.
Righteous Kill feels
like it had the potential for greatness, but the slightly flawed
features adds up, making it not quite as good as its premise or its
ambition.Ultimately, almost everything
in the film has been done better before.But it still hits enough of the right notes, and even when they’re
phoning things in, De Niro and Pacino are still better than most other
actors.Let's just hope that next time
they choose a project together they’ll do so a little more carefully.