Righteous Kill (2008) *

Rated: R
Runtime: 1hr 41min
Director: Jon Avnet
Stars: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino
Genre: Drama
Language: English

There’s a Lot That’s Not Right About This One

In a Nutshell


Straight as an Arrow

Sound Quality

Easy to Hear

Who's That?

Few Main Characters

Naughty Words


Naked people




Moviegoers have a lot to put up with. OK, they say the movie starts at 4:45 p.m. So you get there in plenty of time to pick your seat and settle down for what’s to come: endless commercials and endless previews.And on this occasion every single preview, looking as far forward as next February, had one overwhelming theme: violence, violence and more violence.

So by the time the main feature starts, let’s say 20 minutes after its advertised time, what do we get but more and more and yet more violence.

If the previews had been from Disney that would not have been a problem. But in this case it was. Because if “Righteous Kill” is about anything at all — and it really isn’t about much else — it’s about senseless, mindless, psychotic serial killing.

What are two great stars like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino doing lending their names and their skills to this venture? You’d better ask the director, Jon Avnet, because if he knows then it doesn’t come across on the screen.

Neither De Niro nor Pacino turns in a performance that rises much above the disinterested. Even with actors of their caliber we are left with a dark, macabre tale of two New York City cops who’ve been partners for life and done their best to help the 99 percent of the public that doesn’t do bad things.

They’re dedicated to their jobs, it seems, eager to put the bad guy where he belongs.

Somewhere along the line, however, things went wrong, and if you think you know how, and why, you might just be surprised. Others, however, might have worked out which way the plot’s going after the first 15 minutes.

De Niro (of course!) has a fellow-cop girlfriend (Carla Gugino) who seems way too young to be so overly attracted and available to a man of De Niro’s time frame, although it must be said that he is still a fine looking man. Gugino, in fact, brings a touch of reality to a movie that is all shoot and kill, shoot and kill, shoot and kill. It’s a pity her talents could not have been put to better use.

Pacino? Time has not treated him quite as well, and even Brian Dennehy, who plays the two cops’ boss, wonders if the two of them might consider retirement from the NYPD.

At times the two actors do come together, and there is what seems a genuine rapport, with De Niro being the more expressive, both in his displays of anger and lack of patience with injustice, and, in the final minutes, a warmth of understanding. There are even a few moments of genuine humor.

(A word of warning, however: If you’re not used to the fast-talking New York City accent, it might be a bit difficult for some to catch every word).

Pacino plays a more passive role in the film, seeking to tone down De Niro’s almost bipolar anger at the injustices he sees all around him. But it’s sad to see a man of Pacino’s background kind of walk through his part, looking up at De Niro with wondering eyes.

If watching killing with guns is what Hollywood sees as what the public will pay for, then the future looks kind of bleak.

Surely a director presented with the kind of talent he had to play with could have turned in a gripping tale. Well, he didn’t, leaving us instead with a hackneyed view of cops and a serial killer.

A lifelong journalist, Terence Neilan started his career in his home country, England, and then moved to New York in 1970. After a couple of years as an editor at The New York Post, he moved to The New York Times, where he worked as an editor and Website reporter for 29 years, retiring in 2005.


Hatice said on February 10, 2013


JHS .yeah you’re blogging. This is good news for evnoyree.I would add that nervous directos often dont’ trust the actors and ask for bigger and bigger acting . They want to make sure they’ve got it . The best answer I’ve come up with is to give them what they want (as truthfully as you can) and ask them to let you also give them a take with what you believe will work (often more subtle).Your thoughts about this actor challenge?

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