Righteous Kill
Yes Bob, I think it will look like Starsky & Hutch: the Matlock years.

Theatrical Release Date: 09/12/2008
Director: Jon Avnet
Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Carla Gugino, John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Brian Dennehy, Trilby Glover

What do you get when combine the director of “88 Minutes”, the writer of “Inside Man” (and the much-anticipated “Inside Man 2″ … why Hollywood, why?) and the irresistible forces/immovable objects Robert De Niro and Al Pacino? Well, you get “100 Minutes Men” of course … or I could go with the title the studio is using, “Righteous Kill”.

In the film, De Niro and Pacino (who have only acted on-screen together in one scene in the excellent Michael Mann film, “Heat” … unless you count the ending as the second scene but not much dialogue there) play two senior detectives – senior being the operative word – who are investigating a serial killer.

Their investigation crosses paths with another team of cops (Leguizamo and Wahlberg), utilizes the assistance of forensic examiner/sexual masochist Carla Gugino and ends up in a club owned by 50 Cent. Are you getting excited to spend $743 on this one yet? Well, I wouldn’t be.

This film really doesn’t deserve too much deconstruction because it would be a lengthy, scene by scene unraveling of all the things screenwriter Russell Gewirtz and director Jon Avnet did poorly and I have better things to do with my life.

The simple breakdown is that Gewirtz wrote an overly complicated and ridiculously obvious story about a serial killer within the police force. While I haven’t seen a red herring this large in a very long time, the actual killer is just as obvious and the least Gewirtz could have done was make the villain one of the other characters just to bewilder and confuse us … since it would have meant some brain activity should occur within the film’s running time.

Also, the subplot about Gugino’s character liking a bit of rough trade was odd and creepy at best (especially because it meant laughable shots/ideas about De Niro having vigorous sex with her – and no, she doesn’t get naked so don’t see this if you’re hoping for that). The payoff for setting up this angle could have been done without this and it just made things even more annoying to sit there and take in this film.

Compounding those errors is Avnet’s lackluster and lazy directing. There isn’t one scene in the film that utilizes De Niro and Pacino’s abilities well. These are two very, very good actors and this film keeps that fact very, very much in the dark. I think this might be the first film to use computer generated versions of real actors because the emotions just weren’t there. The diner scene in “Heat” which I alluded to earlier carries so much more weight to it than this entire film and either the two of them were just so desperate to be in a film together that they agreed to do this, their paychecks were ridiculous and/or the craft services were done by Emeril Lagasse.

Leguizamo and Wahlberg are decent but aren’t given much to do here and I honestly would have been more interested in a film about the two of them searching for a serial killer because it was just so depressing to see the wasted effort regarding De Niro and Pacino (and don’t get me started on why they cast Melissa Leo at all if they weren’t going to give her a bigger part). 50 Cent does fine but he also wasn’t asked to do more than front attitude and sport gold teeth.

Perhaps my favorite casting though, was Trilby Glover. She plays a blonde, coke-snorting lawyer that the should-have-been-forced-to-retire detective dream team bust to try and get to 50 Cent. What makes this great is that one of her previous roles was that of a lawyer in “88 Minutes”, making me wonder exactly what social circles Jon Avnet runs in to think that the standard lawyer stereotype is a hot, young blonde (originally from Australia but dropping the accent for the films) that looks to have done more partying than studying in college. If Avnet weren’t married with kids, I’d wonder if something was going on.

I’m guessing that you’re picking up the vibe that I didn’t enjoy this film very much? Good observation because you’re exactly right. The story is a mess, the acting is uninspired to put it mildly and I would rather have spent those 100 minutes looking for change in my sofa or doing a load of laundry.

“Righteous Kill” could have been so much more … if a new screenwriter and director had come along. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and I’m afraid I’ll have to recommend you don’t watch this and pass along a 2 out of 5. I really thought about dropping the rating one more point but the film didn’t necessarily offend me … I just couldn’t have cared much less what happened because there was almost no energy to it at all. It’s like an exercise in finding that perfect groove in your seat because I was shifting all throughout the last third of the film wondering when it would finally end. Sorry Bobby and Al, maybe you should have waited for a better opportunity because this should not be the legacy of your combined efforts on screen … if it is, the world is a worse place for it.