Righteously mediocre

Chris Kallio

“They’re like Lennon and McCartney,” a detective says of De Niro and Pacino’s characters in the movie “Righteous Kill.”

Lennon and McCartney. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, arguably the two greatest actors of their generation, and perhaps motion picture history, appear in their third film together.

The first came in 1974. “The Godfather: Part II” featured the two together for the first time. Though they did not share a single scene together, their characters were separated by a generation of father (De Niro) and son (Pacino).

In their second film together, “Heat” from 1995, they were on opposite sides of the law as cop (Pacino) and criminal (De Niro). They’re back again, this time both as cops, in “Righteous Kill.”

“Righteous Kill” is about two cops attempting to solve a murder mystery while both being pressured to retire. While the story revolves around both cops, it centers more on De Niro’s character, who is suspected by two younger cops (played by Donnie Wahlberg and John Leguizamo) as being the perpetrator of these crimes.

“Nothing wrong with a little shooting,” De Niro’s character says, “just as long as the right people get shot.”

The plot is stupid, but no one should care within several minutes into the film. The “mystery” exploits a hackneyed idea of riddles provided by the murderer, and the twist is not exactly surprising, and especially not good.

The screenplay, written by Russell Gewirtz, confuses poor dialogue with realism, and most actors in the film struggle to breathe any decency into the lines. Pacino and De Niro, however, deliver most of the lines so that they are at least bearable. Some lines, though, are lost in a storm of stupidity, but these two legends fortunately make the most of it. Legends can do that. After all, Noah and Moses had some bad dialogue here and there, and they turned out fine.

De Niro and Pacino, who have known each other for the past four decades, sort of justify the jokes comedians have lampooned them for over the years. Pacino’s eyes sort of daze a bit, until they suddenly widen to express amusement, sarcasm or anger. De Niro, on the other hand, has kept his mumble and growl, his nose growing bigger as he ages.

In the years that they have helped set the standard for acting, they have demonstrated their similarities and differences. They are both Italian-American, rather shy, and have made their marks by exploring the complexities of the human character through mob bosses, psychopaths and cops, among others.

The differences are also noticeable – one is political (De Niro), one is not (Pacino). Pacino generally yells and screams in his movies, while De Niro is more mundane and quiet.

“Righteous Kill” is by no means a good movie, but it is worth the time and money to watch Mr. De Niro and Mr. Pacino together again-and this time in an entire movie together, not just one scene.

One certainly wishes that for their rare outings together they avoid projects like this, but I am confident that they will reunite again, and for a much better film. Until then, there’s always “The Godfather: Part II.”

Righteous Kill

Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, 50 Cent, John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg

Directed by

Jon Avnet

Distributed by

Overture Films

Rated R

Runtime 101 mins.

Contact all reporter Chris Kallio at [email protected].