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Righteous Kill

September 26, 2008
Righteous Kill is a fucking awful buddy-buddy cop movie that clunks its way along through the gears to a safe cruising speed just below the legal limit, hits a twist in the road that everyone knew was there from about the half hour mark, and then heads off into the distance looking bizarrely pleased with itself. And if you think that’s a tortuous analogy, you should try sitting through it yourself; my creative faculties after putting up with this are as withered as Pacino’s scrotum. Actually, apologies, that’s really very unkind. Don’t even consider sitting through it.

For the record, just so you know what you’re missing. Grizzled old cops Turk (Robert De Niro) and Rooster (Al Pacino) have been on the NYPD for years. At one point, De Niro planted evidence on a child killer so that the scumbag would be sent to jail. This is an open secret, but what’s more worrying is that now the ‘out on a technicality’ scumbags – of which there are many, it seems – aren’t even being offered junked evidence, but are being summarily rubbed out by a vigilante. Heavy inference is laid with De Niro’s character because not only are they all connected to him in some way, but he has the reputation, and his voiceover tells you he’s doing it anyway. Then there’s a twist and yadda yadda yadda some boring trite superficial unending plot devices later, the whole thing gets turned upside down. Anyone who has seen a film before won’t be surprised, of course, because although all the evidence points at ‘Turk’, you never actually see him perping the kills, just a “oh, it’s you, detective” sneer from the Bad Guy, and then bang bang. Yeah, you’ve worked it out already.

Hey, look, I’m not giving anything away, it really is that simple.

Throughout all this there are some good people (the boys themselves, Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino, John Leguizamo, Melissa Leo) sleepwalking through their parts so that the pedestrian plot can be painfully played out and we can all go home. The only point of the whole sorry thing is so that a [gravelly voice engaged] De Niro! Pacino! Together! shtick can be employed to ensure the audience will be filled with people expecting something akin to Heat (nowhere near) or The Godfather (don’t even think it). Actually, no, not the only thing; a 15 minute cameo by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is squeezed in, but he’s not even sleepwalking, he’s rubbish.

So who do we have to blame for Righteous Kill? Well, yes, the money men, obviously, as the US Box Office ‘smash’ (half its $60m budget back in the first week or so) is a clear winner in the ticket sales stakes. These things are weighed up, analysed, business-planned, demographically spread-sheeted, pored over, picked apart, put together again, manipulated and clinically constructed to hit enough of our buttons to make us want to go, we know this. But it goes deeper than that, and there’s a theme hastily covered over in this shallow, stench-infused grave of a film that needs – but won’t get – the same analytical brain that was used to cynically conjure up the great cash-register success, and come up with a resolution for a much more important conundrum…

Namely: what do you do with icons once they hit 60? I love Pacino and De Niro, but they shouldn’t be doing crap like this. Pacino hasn’t done anything of any real note in the last decade, apart from The Insider (what’s that, I hear? Insomnia? Only passable, be honest) and almost everything he’s done since Scent of a Woman has had that irritating bug-eyed Hah! quality to it (as this does), like he’s the embarrassing uncle you get at a wedding who always goes on the dance floor first because he thinks he still has the moves. I honestly think the man got such a kicking after Revolution that he hit upon a style that worked in Sea of Love and just decided to do that until the rapture comes. Detective Frank Keller twenty years previously is exactly the same as his Rooster here. Exactly.

De Niro still might be saved, but Bobby Bobby Bobby, not with dreck like this. I think it all went west with The Fan, personally, but there were low moments well before that (Frankenstein, anyone? Backdraft? We’re No Angels?) and despite a few ups, we have to be fair, you must admit that the general trajectory has been down.

And it’s just very very sad, and so unnecessary. I’d rather they accept, Warren Beatty-style, that there’s just no real point and retire gracefully (“I did Reds,” you can hear Beatty say, “and after that there were a couple of shit nuggets, so that was that”); or they stick their bloody heels in and bloody well work hard at the old man thing and craft some Henry Fonda or Katherine Hepburn-style class. Watching Al and Bobby creak and groan around the set (including a couple of De Niro sex scenes with the pneumatic Ms Gugino, had me – and her, I’ll wager – squirming with horror) is genuinely, objectively, embarrassing. Surely they deserve better? Surely we do, too?

This is a movie solely created to be able to say it has these two superstars in it, and if that’s the case, and they’re just not up to it, what do you have?

Remember Sick Boy and Renton, talking about Sean Connery in Trainspotting?

Renton: So we all get old and then we can’t hack it anymore. Is that it?
Sick Boy: Yeah.
Renton: That’s your theory?
Sick Boy: Yeah. Beautifully fucking illustrated.

Like the man said, beautifully fucking illustrated. At least Righteous Kill manages that.

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