Formula helped give us everything from pound cake to gasoline, and even though it works in Jon Avnet's "Righteous Kill" to a degree, you expect a little more from the combined talents of Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino.
DeNiro and Pacino play, respectively, Turk and Rooster, two old school NYPD cops who have managed to keep their sanity and sense of humor despite decades on the job. An investigation into a vigilante killer brings back an incident where Turk planted evidence on a perp who walked on a technicality. It's not long before two young guys are assigned to the case (John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg) to investigate if Turk is behind the killings.
Ten years ago, this would've been an awesome premise and an even better movie, but we're on what seems to be our 2000th season of Law & Order and a new season of Dexter. Sad to say it's all been done before, but that doesn't mean it's not done well.
DeNiro and Pacino play off each other with a chemistry that Hollywood wishes it could bottle or at least clone. Pacino plays down his "Hoo-haw" persona that we've seen in the pass that makes us ask if he wants any eggs with that ham. When Pacino jokingly ties the murders to the Brady Bunch, you're reminded just how good this guy is. With bags under his eyes big enough to carry God's groceries, he still manages a stare that burns through you like lava. DeNiro's tough guy demeanor shows why some guys are TV stars, but very few are movie stars.
Time was clearly spent more on Method acting than method makeup, because you can see every wart and every wrinkle on both actors’ faces. It takes a lot of courage on all parts to embrace your age, especially when it's crucial to the story. Even in the twilight of their careers, Pacino and DeNiro prove that CGI and Botox are no substitute for talent.
Carla Gugino embodies 30-something hotness as Turk's kinky girlfriend, Karen. She's more than just a pretty face and shows you when Rooster describes a police beating. Wahlberg doesn't have much to say or do besides rein in Leguizamo's hotheaded Simon Perez. Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson shows his moniker comes from the value of his acting skills. Leave it to the professionals, Fiddy.
Pacino and DeNiro definitely deserve better than this, but hearing them riff on each other (especially after rarely being on screen together during 1995's "Heat") with a humor and grit that's rarely seen is definitely worth the price of admission. You wish they were in more movies together like the AARP version of the Apatow films. "Righteous Kill" is a case where you can't always get what you want, but you can enjoy it nevertheless.
Billy Tatum gives "Righteous Kill" 3 and a half (out of 5) scoops.
"Righteous Kill." MPAA rating: R for violence, pervasive vulgarisms and brief drug use. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. In general release.