Sunday, January 18, 2009

Movie Review: Righteous Kill

Righteous Kill is a righteous attempt, all right. What other scenes can you freeze frame and show Al Pacino and Robert De Niro having an actual conversation between their characters? (Answer: only in Heat, from 1995.) Let's be honest, director Jon Avnet really starts with a leg up, doesn't he?

And he kind of screws it up, quite honestly. The opening title sequence quickly sucks us in with two cops, our A-list stars, on the shooting range with a variety of weaponry. After we get over our wonderment of two A-list actors in nearly every scene together, we jump into their 30-year careers just before retirement. We view that thirty year period that we feel is happening in real time. The plot is essentially answering the following question: what do you do about the criminal you've caught, know without a doubt is guilty, and know won't get prosecuted? Do you take the law, nay, justice into your own hands? Would that be right or wrong? OR something in between?

We're reminded of that question continually, the plight of an NYPD detective, as we view some righteous kills.. some clear cut examples of vigilante justice. The kills start piling up, and suddenly the whole department realizes its chasing what appears to be a poetry-writing, notecard-leaving, good marksmanship serial killer. We know who it is, they don't. Or at least, that's what we lead ourselves to believe.

The twist is a fairly good one, as twists in shoot em' ups go, but herein lies the rub: part of the twist completely, totally lost me. There are several dark and eery references to violence against women throughout the plot, and we manage to shrug that off, unwillingly. However, the twist has to include it as well. That's where I find the cheap attempt to heighten the dramatic ending falls flat on its face. You have extraordinary actors. Use them to convey the drama, not the damsel-in-distress bit that's been done for hundreds of years.

We do get a wonderful performance from rapper 50 Cent, and Brian Dennehy as Lieutenant Hingis stands out as well, perfectly cast. Donnie Wahlberg is forgettable, but John Leguizamo is not, his usual bulldog self.




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