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Righteous Kill Terribly Predictable, Oddly Comforting

Righteous Kill
Directed by Jon Avnet
Written by Russell Gewirtz
Overture, 2008

One thing you will know immediately at the beginning of Righteous Kill, as Detective Turk (Robert De Niro) plays out his confession to murdering bad guys who the courts could not convict, is that Detective Turk is definitely not the killer.  And with a simple sense of misdirection, like actually showing Turk performing the deeds (even if it would have been a lie), this movie could have become a little less difficult to predict.  As is, when the movie shows the bad guys getting blown away, the killer is always off-camera.

In fact, I think the movie could have misdirected the audience enough with simply showing Turk going on his rampage that the tension would have been, “Will he get caught?” and we wouldn’t have worried about, “I wonder who the real killer is?”  This is the largest mistake director Jon Avnet, who made one of the worst movies of the year with 88 Minutes (also with Al Pacino) and writer Russell Gewirtz (Inside Man) makes.  With the pedigree of De Niro and Pacino, you don’t expect to watch a movie that you would probably only enjoy if you saw it one day on cable.  You know, one of those movies no one has ever heard of before that happens to show up on HBO or something and you watch it and by the end of it you say, “Huh…that wasn’t that bad.”

So the story goes, Turk is laying out his confession, and we are taken back to where it began, as he and his partner Detective Rooster (Pacino) are trying to nail a drug dealer named Spider (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson).  After using a drug-addled lawyer Jessica (Trilby Glover) to trap Spider into dealing coke, the situation gets ugly, one of Spider’s men is dead, and Jessica is badly hurt.  The case goes up in flames because they get nothing and rough up Spider in the process.  This is “the beginning” of Turk’s righteous kills, as he goes back to blow away every scumbag they didn’t nab.  A serial killer becomes the attention of the department.

Teaming up with younger detectives Perez (John Leguizamo) and Riley (Donnie Wahlberg), the four try to figure out who is killing the bad guys, Turk “hoping” he doesn’t get caught, even though for sure you will know he didn’t do it and probably doesn’t know who the killer is either.  So the movie directs us through all the possible or red herring suspects: the other detectives, Turk’s forensics girlfriend Karen (Carla Gugino, who I can’t say the name of without saying I think she is the hottest woman ever), or whoever else you might think could be the killer.  Don’t worry, you’ll guess this in the first twenty minutes.  I sometimes wonder when the answer is this obvious whether the filmmakers want you to know for some reason.  I mean, Avnet and Gewirtz practically hammer you in the head with it.  It’s laughably amateur.

But like I said, oddly comforting.  These guys aren’t the actors they once were.  You won’t see one scene in this that comes close to Heat in intensity.  But the movie isn’t all that terrible beyond the obvious killer.  And at least Pacino isn’t screaming in this, or De Niro looking like he’s slumming.  It just probably isn’t worth the full price or even the matinee ticket.  But it is worth a passing glance one day on your TV set.

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