Once upon a time, oh, thirty years ago, Pacino and DeNiro were names you could trust, so to speak. The two actors were in on the ground floor of the auteurial renaissance of the 70s, and could be seen in some great movies. Sure, there were clunkers (anyone remember Bobby Deerfield?), but far, far more good than bad. It wasn't until 1995 that the two actually appeared together (in Michael Mann's Heat). Alas, here they are, in a different century (still waiting for the next renaissance) reunited in Righteous Kill, a movie that has very little going for it once you get past the names above the title. File this one under F, for forgettable.
Righteous Kill belongs to that category of films with a plot twist at the end, and not much else. I've got nothing against a surprising twist at the end of a movie, as long as (a) the plot supports the twist, and (b) it is actually surprising, and (c) the other 90 minutes of the movie are worth watching too. But there's an unfortunate trend (I personally blame The Sixth Sense for it) in which otherwise lousy movies exist only to build up to the big reveal. I see plot twists. And any halfway savvy viewer will see the twist in Righteous Kill coming about twenty minutes into the movie. This movie, written (surprisingly) by Russell Gewirtz, who also penned Inside Man, a good movie with a good plot twist, tops off the unsurprising surprise ending with an instant replay of the events leading up to the big reveal. This is (a) insulting to the intelligence of viewers who were paying attention and saw it coming a mile away, and (b) a tacit admission that the movie wasn't really worth paying attention to after all, and (c) padding a movie everyone's had enough of already. It keeps the editor busy, however, and director John Avnet depends heavily on editor Paul Hirsch to give *Righteous Kill* a touch of visual interest with his occasional spasms of jittery little jump cuts.
Righteous Kill goes to great but ultimately futile lengths to conceal the inevitable and obvious. One diversionary tactic is that the two main characters are known only by their nicknames, Rooster (Al Pacino), and Turk (Robert DeNiro). Given that his partner is called Rooster, one can only assume Turk is short for turkey. They're police detectives who strut around the barnyards of New York City, halfheartedly scratching at the dirt to find the serial killer who is murdering felons and other lowlife types. A couple of other detectives, Simon Perez (John Leguizamo) and Ted Riley (Donnie Wahlberg) -- disappointingly not named after farm animals -- think Turk's the killer. Rooster spends his time trying to convince them otherwise. Turk's girlfriend Karen Corelli (Carla Gugino) is a fellow detective who is in the movie primarily to wear lingerie and be kinky. There are a couple of other women in the movie, but they're also essentially paper dolls who get dressed up, bent over, and tossed aside once their clothes have been ripped. Rapper 50 Cent turns up as a drug dealer/nightclub entrepreneur named Spider. The webs he weaves are not very tangled, and the same is true of the movie, which strings together a whole lot of cop movie cliches and psychobabble, while giving two potentially magnificent actors nothing to do that's worth doing.