‘Say goodbye to my little friends’

“What are you gonna do? Wheel me out on the ‘Geraldo Show’ as some freak of the week?” posits a character of the new cop thriller “Righteous Kill.”

Wait a minute, Geraldo?

Are you sure that’s the pop-culture reference you want to stick with?

Were there licensing problems with Morton Downey Jr? Arsineo did not return calls?

Yes, “Righteous Kill,” arriving in theaters in 2008 is hopelessly mired in elements of two decades ago. For that was an era when stars Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro were at their bankable best: DeNiro followed his larger-than-life turn as Al Capone in “The Untouchables” with the definitive mismatched-buddy film “Midnight Run.” and Pacino was burning up the screen with Ellen Barkin in “Sea of Love” and about to chew on mouthfuls of scenery in “Dick Tracy.”

Had “Kill” been released at that point and time, their union would reach a fever pitch (and drummed up a better box office than its third-place finish this week at theaters).

I am not suggesting the two are past their prime, as I think both have much to contribute to cinema in their twilight years. But instead of slumming through atrocities like Pacino’s “88 Minutes” or cheapening their legacy as DeNiro repeated has in both “Analyze This” and “Meet the Parents” and their sequels, they should find a film with more subtle nuance and reflection, just as sexagenarian Sylvester Stallone did in “Rocky Balboa.”

“Righteous Kill” in not that movie. In fact, the title of Pacino’s previous film, “Two for the Money,” seems more fitting.

It’s an adequate enough vehicle — stable, drives well – but handles with the thrills of a mini-van.

Pacino and DeNiro are the bizarrely named crime-fighting duo Rooster and Turk, respectively.

After decades on the force, they lament “ones that got away” — the rapists, drug-pushers and murderers who, by a loopy legal system, squiggle free and return to the streets to commit more crime.

In recent days, though, a serial killer has been dispensing vigilante justice, and a number of perpetrators the cases in which Turk and Rooster oversaw are winding up dead.

Is it a cop, fed up with the system methodically finishing the job the justice system could not seem to do? Is it a lone-wolf groupie who’s just trying to lend a hand to the haggard officers? Is it a vengefu… No, it’s a cop. The film says so repeatedly within the first 20 minutes. We even see a videotaped confession and the words of the killer.

Of course, a film of this nature live or dies by its last-minute “gotcha” and so “Kill” plods along to its inevitable ending zinger. It may be a twist, but it’s not a surprise, as the audience is given a roughly 33.3 percent chance of guessing the limited suspect lineup.

Supporting characters, as expected, are but window dressing – and there’s not much light escaping through these panes. There’s Carla Gugino as DeNiro’s way-too-young love interest (Pacino already had a shot this year at being a mack granddaddy in director Jon Avnet’s “88 Minutes,” in which every female within a one-mile vicinity was drawn to him as though he excreted some strange musk). Fitty Cent (here going by his thespian name of Curtis Jackson) may actually end up “Die Tryin’” to be an actor, because he certainly isn’t going to “Get Rich” from it.

John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg also stop by to fill out various police-force stereotypes.

And in the center rest DeNiro and Pacino, who have moments where they appear to enjoy one another’s company, but there was more electricity generated in the brief five minutes they spent across the diner table in “Heat” than any scene in “Righteous Kill.” Hack director Avnet does little to punctuate the proceedings with anything else.

The film is slightly above most of DeNiro’s latter-day output (“Hide and Seek,” “Godsend,” “Showtime”), but with video stores stocked with decades of iconic work from these two Method men, the real crime would be bypassing them for this protracted “Law and Order” episode with two very special guest stars.

~ by usesoapfilm on September 15, 2008.

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