A psychological thriller featuring two of America's most well known celebrities, a hip-hop idol and a highly recognizable supporting cast sounds like a blockbuster hit, but Righteous Kill, directed by Jon Avnet, proves this assumption untrue with its stereotypical cop-drama tendencies and un-suspenseful action.
Granted, Al Pacino as the cynical "Rooster" and Robert De Niro as the loose cannon "Turk" do an admirable job of reinventing the criminal intensity they so often bring to the screen. The actors' consistent sarcasm lightens the gory mood in some parts of Righteous Kill, as does their fraternal connection.
Viewers can take comfort in this bond and the lack of inhibition that the two actors display in their flippant attitudes. Pacino and De Niro are not the problems with Righteous Kill - the entire plot of the movie is.
The movie's biggest flaw is its tendency to fall too easily into the genre of today's cop-dramas and end-twist thrillers, without contributing anything to the realm of film. The standard story of two detective partners-one of whom ends up walking the fine line between police hero and loose-cannon cop only to become a criminal suspect-is a story that has been told too many times.
The lack of a suspenseful plot also plagues the film; who will be murdered next by the at-large "Poetry Killer" isn't much of a surprise. The NYPD establishes from the start that the victims are all acquitted felons.
The movie's "unexpected" murders are also portrayed in flashbacks, thus eliminating any real suspense, and the possible identities of the murderer become very limited very quickly, though the conclusion may leave some viewers surprised.
As for supporting actors, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson does a decent job of portraying a stereotypical high-rolling drug dealer named Spider who propels the plot from the beginning to the end. Likewise, John Leguizamo does a fair job of portraying the nosy cop Simon Perez, and Brian Dennehy makes brief appearances as the tough and seasoned Lieutenant Hingis.
The cast only includes one significant female role - Carla Gugino as investigator Karen Corelli - though her only real function seems to be acting as De Nero's suspicious girlfriend and collecting crime scene evidence.
Overall, Righteous Kill barely entertained: it relied too much on predictable plot formulas and the promise of a stellar cast. It fell far short of qualifying as a cinematic classic, only to end up as a passable 2008 drama.
There is no doubt that Pacino and De Niro can still bring quality acting to the screen - they just need a quality film in which to do so.