Righteous Kill seemed like the perfect film: with DeNiro and Pacino starring side by side for the first time since Heat (and this time they’d actually have scenes together that amounted to something), Righteous Kill appeared, from the outset, to be a solid cop drama. Instead what viewers got was a slapped together plot that wasn’t anything worthy of the acting talent that drove it. Slammed by the critics, Righteous Kill didn’t even make back its hefty $60 million budget domestically, although it certainly will in home video sales for those who are hoping against hope that the film really isn’t as bad as critics said it was.
After 30 years as partners in the pressure cooker environment of the YPD, highly decorated Detectives “Turk”, played by Academy Award winner Robert De Niro (Raging Bull) and “Rooster”, played by Academy Award winner Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman) should be ready for retirement. But, before they can hang up their badges, they are called in to investigate the murder of a notorious pimp, which appears to have ties to a case they solved years before. This adrenaline fueled psychological thriller features hip-hop superstar Curtis Jackson (Get Rich or Die Tryin’), Carla Gugino (Sin City), John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge!), Donnie Wahlberg (Saw II and III), and Brian Dennehy (death of a Salesman) and was directed by Jon Avnet (Red Corner) and written by Russel Gewirtz (Inside Man).
Although I’m not a huge fan of either of the driving talent behind this film (nothing against them, I just think they’re a bit overrated…Pacino especially), I was still excited for this movie. It’s more just the prospect of two big time actors such as De Niro and Pacino being together than any real admiration I had for any of them that made me excited for the film, but it soon proved that even the little bit of excitement I had for it was entirely misplaced. I thought to myself that a film with a $60 million budget and two of the biggest actors in the history of cinema would actually…you know, have a good script. It didn’t.
In fact after watching this film for a short while, I realized what was so wrong about it. Aside from Pacino and De Niro, there is no real other big name talent. Not to knock Leguizamo or Wahlberg (although…really, why not), but there’s nothing about this film that worked aside from the two big stars. The plot was something that wasn’t even worth of a CSI episode and in fact felt more like some really badly hashed out direct-to-video feature that was made for a quick buck. I’m sure this film would’ve been extremely profitable if they hadn’t spent $60 million making this. Seriously…where the hell did that money go? There’s nothing in this film that even required CGI or extensive fanciful use of cameras or any of that. Honestly, unless De Niro and Pacino both got paid over $25 million each, I’ve no idea where the money was invested for this one.
While I did find the ending of the film to be moderately entertaining, the film really feels like it never graduated past the rough script stage. The haphazard way the film is assembled, with footage of De Niro seemingly confessing to murdering everyone from the start, makes for an incredibly confusing way to progress this film, especially since you know it’s not going to be that simple so the only other alternative is to have the other big star of the film actually be the bad guy. I joked that that was the case with this film as I watched it, but when it was actually revealed to be Pacino behind it all…well, I’d label that as a spoiler, but honestly and truly you would’ve figured it out regardless. There are so many “clues” that pound you over the head with their subtly that to not pick up on that would be absolutely ridiculous.
I don’t know how a studio assembled this kind of cast around such a weak script. Even before the obvious “twist” happened, the entire “murder mystery” was incredibly weak. We were never given a real reason why we should care about any of the characters here and quite frankly Leguizamo and Wahlberg had more of a believable buddy-buddy system going on than De Niro and Pacino.
I could pound this movie into the ground all day, but the myriad of critical reviews that came out when this film hit theaters did that adequately enough, I think. To succinctly put it, this film is really a big heaping pile. I truly wanted to like it, but there’s nothing to enjoy. There’s nothing original about it, there’s nothing interesting about it and there’s nothing that makes it a compelling view. You can easily get confused by how the film is progressing, but even when you finally understand what’s going on due to the shoddy editing, it doesn’t matter because you don’t really care. More than anything I’m upset that such talent was wasted on a film like this. I’m sure it was fun for everyone involved to make but the same can’t be said for those who had to watch it. Skip It.
Righteous Kill arrives in a standard single disc amaray case with a cardboard o-ring slip that mimics the art beneath it. There is some embossing on the slipcover as well and I will admit that the cover is quite nicely done, but it’s almost overkill; it’s also the disc art and it’s also the inserts art (and the rear cover art on the jacket? Yeah, repeated on the insert as well). Menus are simple and easy to navigate, though oddly enough the menu had a “Resume” option the first time I inserted the disc…which made no sense, since I’d never put the disc in the drive before.
Video for the film is your standard progressive scan transfer, although the scenery for this film is so incredibly dull you won’t find much to feast your eyes on. There are also some strange instances of interlaced frames, which is strange since it is a genuinely progressive transfer…so how interlaced frames snuck in there, I don’t know. Kind of an odd thing to see for a modern production, especially in the era of Blu-ray (upon which this film was also released). Also included is a DD 5.1 track that is as unimpressive as the video transfer, with a mostly front channel driven track. Also included are English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Extras for this release start off with a Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Jon Avnet, who attempts to justify this film as best as he can but you’ll lose interest in this track about as quickly as you lose it in the film itself. The remaining extras are a pair of simple featurettes which include The Investigation: An In-Depth Look at Righteous Kill (14:24) and The Thin Blue Line: An Exploration of Cops & Criminals (19:05), the latter of which has some of the cheesiest narration I’ve ever heard for a DVD documentary. Also included is the Theatrical Trailer (2:30), which makes the film out to be more of a cop mystery than the film actually is.
Overall this film isn’t worth checking out and neither is this DVD. Skip It.
Righteous Kill is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.