‘Righteous’ kills enthusiasm for more-than-righteous cast

Two award-winning actors are brought together in “Righteous Kill,” a film advertised as a gut-wrenching psychological thriller. Unfortunately, it’s more like the bastard child of Showtime’s “Dexter” and NBC’s “Law & Order,” but with one exception: its small-screen contemporaries are at least mildly interesting.

Though the film boasts an impressive cast, even the presence of blockbuster heavyweights Al Pacino (“The Godfather”) and Robert De Niro (“Taxi Driver”) is not enough to mask the tedious and convoluted plot.
A killer is stalking the streets of Manhattan, preying exclusively on criminals whom the justice system has failed to incarcerate — an enterprise that is mostly praised by veteran officers Rooster and Turk (Pacino and De Niro, respectively). Not surprisingly, this celebratory attitude casts suspicion on the disillusioned duo as the rest of the NYPD comes to suspect Turk’s involvement in the murders. The result is a strained attempt at creating a suspenseful who-dunnit thriller with one glaring problem: The audience has a 50-50 chance of naming the killer from the get-go.

Sadly, the script seems to serve as a roadblock for the aging actors. The implied connection between the old friends is undercut by a lack of meaningful dialogue, rendering the final showdown between the two hollow at best and plain uninteresting at worst. In this respect, “Righteous Kill” shoots itself in the foot by delivering two iconic actors with nothing to work with, leaving audiences with little more to do than bitterly reminisce about the successful De Niro-Pacino collaboration “The Godfather: Part II.”

“Righteous Kill” does little to excite the imagination. About a fourth of the way through the film, it becomes crystal clear where things are headed. Unfortunately, it takes another half hour to get there. In the meantime, the film does what can only be described as a linear somersault that leaves viewers wondering which end is up and which is down. Though there are brief moments of cleverness, the fact remains that “Righteous Kill” is content to be defined by the genre rather than defying the genre.

In short, the lethargic performances of De Niro and Pacino coupled with a predictable plot make “Righteous Kill” not just lackluster, but downright boring. If you’re in the mood for a satisfying vigilante killing spree, “Boondock Saints” is a better bet. “Righteous Kill” isn’t worth the price of admission.


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