Cool and calculated

DeNiro and Pacino pack a punch in Righteous Kill

Righteous Kill
Starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Carla Gugino and John Leguizamo. Directed by John Avnet. Rated R.
Rated 4.0

Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino make quite a pair, even if they are showing major signs of aging. It’s been more than a decade since we’ve seen them on screen together (in Heat), and it’s nice to see DeNiro take a break from comedies to prove he’s still a badass.

Righteous Kill is a buddy-cop flick turned on its head. Instead of two polar opposites being stuck together to bicker and pull pranks on each other, these guys are very similar, best friends, and veteran New York detectives. Then a serial killer goes and mucks everything up.

Actually, it’s clear from the opening scene what is going on. As the film progresses, we learn more and more, and it’s in the telling that this film differentiates itself from other police dramas. Director John Avnet lays out each scene with calculated precision. The fact that the victims of this serial killer are criminals themselves adds a bit of an ethical quandary to the situation as well.

DeNiro plays Turk, a cop’s cop who has a hot temper and a woman who likes him that way. Rooster (Pacino) is the calmer, steadier of the two, who adds balance to the equation. When two younger detectives come across a murder case that’s strikingly similar to one of their own, they reluctantly band together.

Things heat up, fingers get pointed and, inevitably, people get shot. Because, as they say, “Most people respect the badge; everybody respects the gun.”

DeNiro and Pacino, both powerhouses in their own rights, play beautifully off one another. They don’t duel for screen time; neither out-acts the other. John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg, as the younger cops, also work well together, and hold their own alongside the big dogs. Carla Gugino, who plays a crime-scene investigator, is wickedly smart in her role; and even rapper 50 Cent pulls off a decent performance as a club owner/drug dealer.

Righteous Kill, with all its actors in place, plays out like a game of chess. Each move is meticulous, and although some may be deemed predictable, they all lead up to a satisfying checkmate.

And DeNiro is definitely still a badass.