Righteous Kill (UK - DVD R2)
Our Scott McKenzie checks out the Pacino and De Niro movie from 2008...
Al Pacino and Robert De Niro play two aging New York cops called Rooster and Turk (seriously), who are faced with the task of bringing a serial killer to justice. The murderer is killing known criminals and when two more detectives played by John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg get involved in the case, suspicion starts to fall on Turk. As tensions rise between the detectives and their personal lives get in the way of the professional lives, will they get to the bottom of the case and find out who the killer is?
Although they’re two of the most respected living actors, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro’s recent output hasn’t exactly set the entertainment world alight. Back in 1995 when they starred together in Heat, they were coming off the back of huge movies like Carlito’s Way and Casino. Fast forward thirteen years and we have the movie that brings the stars of 88 Minutes and Meet the Fockers together. Surely any anticipation of a hard-hitting drama was built solely on hope and nostalgia rather than realistic expectations of what we are getting from them at this point in their respective careers.
That said, what we get from Pacino and De Niro isn’t as bad as many would have you believe. Adjust your expectations accordingly and you’ll find that Righteous Kill isn’t all that bad. For a start, the cast that was drawn together once the headlining pair were on board is pretty impressive. In one particular scene, we get Pacino and De Niro sitting round a table with Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino, John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg. Not a bad cast considering the screenplay offers them little more than a made-for-TV detective story with a twist.
I say ‘with a twist’, but it’s the type of twist that’ll only keep you watching to see if they really expected you not to work out what it was. The movie should have been a whodunit, but you can work that out early on, and seeing as it’s pretty obvious why the murderer is killing the bad guys, there’s not many hooks in the story to keep you gripped. If the story had been written from the perspective of John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg’s characters, it would have given the director more opportunities for suspense, but of course that would have meant that our big money stars would have to be sidelined.
The relatively large cast of names also means that there is constant conflict of who to focus on, often at the expense of coherence in the story. So what we’re left with is a big production that unfortunately has very small ambitions. It’s a shame because there’s obvious sparks between the members of the cast—with the exception of the wooden 50 Cent—and it left me wondering what could have been, if only they could have been given a stronger screenplay to work with.
The movie is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. With DVD being such a mature format, a large number of recent releases all have a similar presentation quality and it’s often difficult to pick out key points. There are no problems with the colours during the brighter scenes and the black level is pretty good. The only real problem I noticed with the transfer was that in wider shots there wasn’t a lot of detail in the backgrounds, which were a little fuzzy. There is some grain in flashback scenes, but this is intentional and the difference between these moments and the rest of the movie is obvious.
I was pleasantly surprised at the beginning of this movie. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack gives out plenty of bass and the music over the opening credits montage got my attention and brought me into the movie. There are also some nice moments, with echo effects working well through the surround channels. However, there are some very unnecessary effects at times, almost like the sound editors were given carte blanche to do whatever they wanted. I mean, do we really need excessive background traffic noises during a scene in a gym where the traffic can’t be seen? Someone also took the decision to run a train past a key scene when Al Pacino is shouting, a device that’s been used too many times, notably in a similar moment with Pacino in Glengarry Glen Ross.
This disc opens with trailers for The Spirit, The Eye, W. and My Best Friend’s Girl. Things don’t improve too much after that. Jon Avnet provides a commentary, but unfortunately it’s more of a running commentary of the action on screen rather than providing significant details for those interested in the making of the movie. There is some talk about the differences between the original screenplay and the final movie though and Avnet seems not to mind discussing his limitations as a director.
‘The Investigation’ is the making-of featurette. We’re in familiar territory here as the actors talk about their characters and working with each other. It’s interesting to note that De Niro was the first star to sign up and put Pacino forward for the role of his partner. After that point, the rest of the cast were lining up to join in. ‘The Thin Blue Line’ is more of a documentary, looking at corruption in the US police force. We get to hear the details of true stories and interviews with the people who were involved. This is worth a watch, but at eighteen minutes it could have been longer and offered more.
Righteous Kill might not be Heat 2 but it’s not as bad as many reviews would have you believe. The most frustrating thing is that the best such a large group of talented actors could produce is just an average detective story and nothing more. This DVD offers little in the way of extras so if you’re interested checking it out, I’d say give it a rent rather than cough up your cash for such a forgettable movie.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 16th February 2009
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Audio Commentary with Director Jon Avnet, The Investigation: An In-Depth Look at Righteous Kill, The Thin Blue Line: The Darker Side of Police Force
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jon Avnet
Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Carla Gugino, Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg, Curtis Jackson
Genre: Crime and Thriller
Length: 97 minutes
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