On the day that a serial killer that he helped put away is supposed to be executed, a noted forensic psychologist and college professor receives a call informing him that he has 88 minutes left to live.
Turk and Rooster, two aging NYPD detectives and longtime partners, are hunting a serial killer who is murdering sociopathic criminals. They both have personal issues, and when they start working with a younger investigative team, Perez and Riley, tensions between the two teams is inevitable, especially since Turk is now living with Perez's ex-girlfriend, also a homicide detective. Written by
Turk (Robert De Niro) and Rooster (Al Pacino) are longtime NYC police partners, in this Jon Avnet thriller that has them trying to stop an unknown serial killer, a person who leaves a poem at the scene of each crime. Victims are law-breakers who were freed on legal technicalities. Two other cops, played by John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg, become suspicious of the investigation, and this hampers the efforts of Turk and Rooster.
The script on which the film is based is rather poor. The setup is muddled; none of the characters are especially sympathetic, and secondary characters are not well defined. Further, "Righteous Kill" is not that much different from other serial killer or urban crime films.
The mood here is dark, and the tone is rather cynical. Characters go out of their way to telegraph their toughness by using lots of "hard" language. There's an edginess to the characters, and that's okay. But I could have wished for a character with some degree of softness. That would have provided much needed balance to the overall tonal savagery.
Without a doubt, the film's best element is the acting. There's not a weak performance in the bunch. Of course, the focus is on De Niro and Pacino. This is really their film. And it's their camaraderie, their back and forth playful banter, that makes the film worth watching. Production design and costumes are credible. Color cinematography is generally dark, consistent with the story's mood.
In spite of a weak script, "Righteous Kill" does provide some good plot misdirection that will leave viewers unsure as to the story's outcome. But the film's main virtue is the casting of De Niro and Pacino, two contemporary screen legends whose performances here are quite good.
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