30 September 2008

Righteous Kill Review

Righteous Kill is quite disappointing. Scratch that, it’s very disappointing. Billed as the second coming (together) of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro after Heat, it’s tagline reads ‘Most people respect the badge. Everyone respects the gun’. But you’d be a fool to respect this water-pistol of a movie.

The story – such as there is one amid this disjointed mess that Russell Gerwitz has the gall to call a ‘script’ – goes that a man claiming his name is David Fisk (Robert De Niro), a.k.a ‘Turk’, is admitting to murdering 14 criminals who the justice system has let off easy. He’s recording his admission for whatever reason, and then it cues flashbacks to all the murders and the subsequent investigations into them, as well as the original indictments of the criminals that he and his partner – known only as ‘Rooster’ (Al Pacino) – have worked hard to construct. All isn’t as it seems, however, and when two tenacious detectives (Donnie Wahlberg, John Leguizamo) cotton onto the fact that one of their own is offing these criminals, things start to go wrong.

As I pointed out, the first fall down is the script. It is, simply put, boring. There’s nothing to it – no interesting characters, poorly written dialogue and a ridiculously predictable twist. Considering this comes from the man who brought us Inside Man – a nuanced, perfectly weighted bank heist movie – the shoddiness of the script comes as something of a shock. Perhaps with Inside Man it was a great filmmaker making something special out of a relatively mediocre script; and turns out, Jon Avnet is no Spike Lee.

Indeed, Avnet couldn’t direct himself out of a cardboard box even if he tried. There is simply no order to the movie, no discipline in the structuring of it. It’s far, far, far too long, and the problem with twist movies that are far too long is that the chances of the audience guessing your twist are directly proportional to the length of your film. Handled delicately, this twist – though poorly conceived – could’ve actually been quite surprising, but as it stands, you can see it coming for a good half-an-hour before the director deems fit to reveal it to us, and that makes the reveal rather tedious.

Avnet, too, is responsible for the below par editing – I’m not usually a stickler for continuity errors, but here they’re so glaringly obvious that they simply can’t be ignored. editor should’ve been sacked for putting the film together in such an appallingly sloppy manner. That it’s Paul Hirsch, the man who edited Star Wars Episodes IV and V, comes as something of a shock.

But perhaps the biggest farce in all of this is that Robert De Niro was attracted to the script at all, and more annoying that he roped Al Pacino into the mix. De Niro simply seems to be coasting on the fact that he’s considered one of the greatest actors of our time, and if he keeps going on at this rate, he’ll have that title swiftly removed. His performance is stiff at best, and completely immobile at worst – there’s nothing going on in his characters head, and even his attempts to make the character brashly charismatic fall flat because he seems utterly unable to do anything with such a poorly developed role. It would seem to me that he’s an actor circling the drain – but all he needs is a rescue line in the form of a great director and a great script to give him one last hurrah.

Faring slightly better is Al Pacino, at least bringing some anima and zest to the otherwise one-dimensional, fawn-eyed Rooster. He also manages to develop some pleasing chemistry with Wahlberg and Leguizamo, the three wisecracking to each-other in perhaps the movies sole redeeming sequence – a stake-out where they try to catch Turk in the supposed act of his fourteenth murder. The latter two themselves do well, displaying an easy camaraderie that could seemingly only come from years working together. Elsewhere, the gorgeous Carla Gugino struggles with a character completely peripheral to the main story – ‘t’would seem she’s this film’s wonderbra bearer and little more. And good ol' Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson once agains proves that he should stick to talking over music in rhyming couplets - that's rapping for the layman - because acting is clearly not his forte.

But the film’s final – and fatal – mistake is to try to homage the final sequences of Heat. To explain myself fully would be to spoil the story for those of you still interested in going to see it, but suffice to say that instead of being an homage, it’s offensively derivative, to the point where I honestly considered storming out of the cinema. This is not the promised second coming – instead we are presented with a turgid, poorly paced police thriller with no surprises other than the indictment of a once great actor’s recent poor form. Avoid, unless you want to leave the theatre with a rather foul taste in your mouth.

Ross' Rating: 4/10

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