September 22, 2008

Say It Ain't So, DeNiro and Pacino

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This will be brief: Righteous Kill sucks. Despite having two very strong actors attached to the film, it is one of the most generic, lackluster, stale and boring films that I have ever seen — and I have seen a lot of films. If you want to see a really good cop/crime drama, go see Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight again, or Michael Mann’s excellent Heat (which also has Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, giving far better performances) or Joe Carnahan’s Narc (with Ray Liotta and Jason Patric). Moral of the story? Skip Righteous Kill. Its not even worth a DC++ download.
The script, penned by Inside Man’s screenwriter Russel Gerwitz, follows two veteran, on-the-verge-of-retirement NYPD detectives with nicknames Turk (Robert DeNiro) and Rooster (Al Pacino). A vigilante who specifically targets criminals that have fallen through the cracks in the Judicial system — and consequentially gotten away with rape, murder and other deplorable crimes — is on the loose. Then there are indications that the vigilante is a cop, and its up to detectives Turk, Rooster, Perez (John Leguizamo), Riley (Donnie Wahlberg) and Forensics Investigator Karen Corelli (Carla Gugino) to find the truth. The Hunt is on! … Except the audience does not care.
The film fails to engage the viewer with the story in any capacity. Pacino and DeNiro have a knack for radiating strong screen presence, but even they fail to elicit interest in the story of this film. This is not at all the fault of the actors; the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of director Jon Avnet. Avnet squanders the wonderful cast he has in this film by giving them absolutely nothing to do. Unlike in Michael Mann’s Heat, where the interactions of Al Pacino and DeNiro are focused and artistically poignant, in Righteous Kill their characters seem directionless and lost. Gerwitz is probably an above-average screenwriter (based on his work in Inside Man), but Righteous Kill looks like a script that Gerwitz wrote before he developed his craft — likely when he was 10 years old. His final script has literally nothing going for it. It plays out like a bad TV movie.
Avnet has no sense of style or focus in the film — the whole thing feels uneven and it’s simply not fun to watch. The story is nothing special; the dialogue is nothing cool; the characters are not at all fleshed out; and the direction, cinematography and musical score are all woefully unimpressive. The movie literally offers nothing to look at, hear, think about or process. The Dark Knight, Heat and Narc all left the viewer with an emotionally cerebral aftertaste — Righteous Kill just leaves the viewer $10 poorer. Avnet’s work speaks not of an auteur but of an uninterested substitute teacher who fails to inject any creative energy into the film. Message to Avnet: Man up, grow a pair, and become more creatively involved in your next film. Otherwise, just quit directing and open up a Starbucks.