Sunday, September 21, 2008

Righteous Kill

It’s sad to say, but putting two of the greatest actors of all time together on screen does not necessarily give you a good film. Jon Avnet’s new movie is one of the most heartbreaking experiences I’ve had at the cinema this year. Not because Righteous Kill is emotionally complex, God no. It’s because about a third of the way into it, you know that names like Pacino and De Niro can’t save it.

Plot? Umm. Pacino and De Niro are 30 year partnered cops who are trying to catch a vigilante that is killing off scum in New York. If you’ve seen the preview, you know that most clues point to De Niro as the culprit. And if you see 20 minutes of the movie, you’ll know how it is going to end. But of course, the filmmakers try to deliver a grand surprise that just falls completely flat.

The last (and only other movie) these two have shared screen time together was Michael Mann’s incomparable Heat. After Righteous Kill was finished I had already forgotten most of the film, but I got to thinking: what was their last great movie.

To define “great” along Pacino and De Niro is to put the word in a whole other category. Honestly, does acting getting any better than De Niro’s Travis Bickle or Jake La Motta? How about Pacino’s Michael Corleone or Sonny from Dog Day Afternoon? I think not.

In fact, many consider Heat to be both actors’ last great performance. But there are exceptions. Take De Niro in Sleepers or even Wag the Dog, Pacino in The Insider, Insomina and Angels in America for instance. But, for the most part, neither actor has delivered anything substantial within the last decade.

Maybe it’s unfair to compare their work now from their hey-day in the ‘70s. They were young and relentless. Their older now and time has weathered them both.

Little can be said for Righteous Kill, no excuses can make up for this, but I’m still waiting for that one shock performance that sends me back to the days when "Attica!" is yelled in the streets, or the words, "You talkin' to me?" send chills down my spine. D-

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