When someone mentions a film title to me I automatically think to myself ‘who’s in it?’ It’s a habit which comes from mistakenly hiring third rate titles from Blockbuster which list the ‘star’s as Milton Broadlight (?), Cruise Bruisington (??) and Randy Bumgardener (??!!!!!!!!). Cast of unknowns equals crap film. So using this theory Righteous Kill ought to be one of the best films ever made!
Who could ask for a better cast than Robert de Niro and Al Pacino? These two legends have made shedloads of great movies and yet have only ever appeared in the same film twice; Godfather 2 and Heat (they’ve actually only ever been in the same scene together once!). In Righteous Kill they appear together in almost every scene. And, as you’d expect, they’re great. If I was to be picky (which I am) I would question whether their styles have become a touch hammy… why does de Niro always pull that same, stick-your-chin-out, expression…? …why does Pacino raise his eyebrows until they’re higher than his hairline…? …instead of doing that clever acting thing, why can’t they both just act naturally like they did in, respectively, Taxi Driver and Serpico …?
Ironically it is the strength of the cast of this film which gives away the twist. Without spoiling it, I was thinking pretty early on that Pacino’s character couldn’t possibly be as straightforwardly good as it appeared or Pacino wouldn’t have agreed to do it. If a lesser known actor had been in that role, I may not have been looking for deeper character development. I have to hold my hands up and confess though that I didn’t guess the exact nature of the twist so it was quite satisfying when it came.
As the credits rolled I felt like Id really enjoyed the film on the level of a straight-forward cop thriller. The next day I felt like it had gone a bit sour; like when you get indigestion after a curry. By then, all the plot holes had occurred to me and I’d thought of things which had been put in to lead the viewer down the wrong track but then didn’t make much sense after the final plot denouement had arrived. Most of all, I’d remembered some of the exceptional films that these two wonderful actors made in their earlier careers… de Niro in Godfather 2, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Cape Fear, The Deer Hunter, Awakenings, The Mission, Casino… Pacino in Godfather 1,2 and 3, Dog Day Afternoon, Scent of A Woman, Serpico, Scarface, Glengarry Glenross, Carlito’s Way, Insomnia…
Righteous Kill is fun and well-made but exceptional? Not even close. Those earlier films had things to say about the human condition. This film is a story hung around a pretty contrived plot twist. Why do films always have to a twist these days anyway? I’m expecting a twist in all films now and if you’re expecting a twist… well, its not really a twist, is it? Maybe they could make a film without a twist one time and that could be the twist.