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With: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Curtis Jackson, Carla Gugino, John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg, Brian Dennehy, Trilby Glover, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Alan Rosenberg, Sterling K. Brown, Barry Primus, Melissa Leo, Alan Blumenfeld, Oleg Taktarov, Shirly Brener, Frank John Hughes, Terry Serpico, Liza Colón-Zayas, Malachy McCourt, Ajay Naidu
Written by: Russell Gewirtz
Directed by: Jon Avnet
MPAA Rating: R for violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and brief drug use
Running Time: 100
Date: 09/10/2008

Righteous Kill (2008)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

They Are Legend

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Sometime in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a group of New York-based actors, led by Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, came to Hollywood and helped to inject a fresh new air of realism, or at least honesty, to American movies. The new movie Righteous Kill isn't one of those, but it does have something that all those other 1970s classics don't have: a great, onscreen byplay between two heavyweights. As most film buffs know, Pacino and De Niro have only appeared in two movies together: their paths never crossed in The Godfather Part II (1974), and their paths crossed only briefly in Heat (1995). In Righteous Kill, they play a pair of New York police detectives, partners, who stumble upon a serial killer that targets freed rapists and drug dealers, and leaves bits of poetry at the scenes of his crimes. They share most of the movie together, and it feels as if they're old friends who have worked together for decades, slipping into an easy camaraderie as well as a credible depiction of blue-collar beat-walkers. (Better still, they look like they're having fun.) Sadly, the rest of the movie, written by Russell Gewirtz (Inside Man) and directed by Jon Avnet (88 Minutes), falls far short of deserving them. It relies mainly on creaky old cop-movie chestnuts going all the way back to Dirty Harry and The French Connection, and Avnet's flabby direction comes closer to a guy sitting on the couch watching cop movies than to an actual cop. Worse, it tries for one of those "twist" endings that really only has one logical outcome. But if De Niro and Pacino's contribution makes up at least 60% of the film, then that's 60% worth watching. They even inspire co-stars like Carla Gugino, John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg to bring their A-game. Brian Dennehy co-stars as the hard-ass police chief and Curtis Jackson (a.k.a. 50 Cent) plays a drug dealer.

DVD Details: The 2009 DVD, from Overture Films and Anchor Bay, comes with a director's commentary track, two featurettes and a trailer.

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