The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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--Matt

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Righteous Kill (2008)

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I'd been meaning to watch this for a long time, and somehow I decided it would be cool to review it on my Friday spot (which this week became a Saturday spot... sorry). De Niro and Pacino are such huge cinematic icons that did much to make the 70s what they were as perhaps the best decade for movies we've seen since the medium was invented. I must make clear again, this review contains spoilers. It is impossible for me to discuss it without giving away the ending, which, to be frank, everyone would see coming from the start anyway, and the only real suspense is whether or not they're going to be that obvious.

Righteous Kill is about two (obviously) veteran NYPD detectives investigating a vigilante serial killer who is taking out suspected criminals that were acquitted on their various crimes. We're led to believe it's De Niro the whole time, which means it has to be the person we don't expect, though of course we expect him the whole time, and sure enough, it's him.

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And it was that ending which ruined this movie for me. Out of all the characters Pacino has ever played, this was the first genuine cheeseball, the first lovable loser, and he seemed to be enjoying it, and I enjoyed watching him in it. Then, in a flash, he loses that character and is suddenly a cold calculating killer, with the only link to the cheeseball we loved being the cheeseball poems he left on his victims. I just didn't get it. Sure, maybe the script was written like that, but you've got De Niro and Pacino-- rewrite it! Call Kevin Spacey, have him be the killer. I'm sure he'd be more than willing if Pacino and De Niro were on the other end. It turned a fun experience into a fun experience with a bad taste in my mouth.

Now, don't get me wrong, this wasn't Heat or Godfather II, and we'd all expect that a film pairing these two film legends would have to be that caliber. I disagree. In 1989, yes, it should be that. But in 2008, what we have here is our best bet. Essentially, it was one of those celebrity basketball games where a couple legends get on the court and play around for fun, and I was perfectly fine with that. De Niro and Pacino, though playing off each other with a bad script, you could still see their skill in it, like a Bob Cousy still throwing it behind his back, or making a free throw effortlessly. Had the ending been consistent with what they were doing, it would've been a more complete feeling, but I was okay with what I had up until then.

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I'm going to start with Robert De Niro, because his character was more like the kind of character we're used to seeing from him, that Andy Quinn playing Zampanò from La Strada indicative in his Vito Corleone, Jake La Motta, or Travis Bickle. Here, of course, he wasn't doing it in an Oscar winning fashion, but more reminding us of that style that he had once used to win him Oscars and the legendary status he now holds. Again, looking at it as a hall of famer at a celebrity basketball game, it fits better. No one really believes a 65-year-old man, no matter how good of shape he's in, is roughing up kids half his age, just like no one expects Magic Johnson to go out now and stay in front of Rajon Rondo, but seeing Magic play the point in a celebrity game and throw one of his patented no-look passes reminds us of that guy who changed the game, the way De Niro did in movies during roughly the same time period.

Now, while De Niro played a throwback to some of his more memorable characters, Pacino gives us a whole new look. Yet, he does it in a way that suggests that he too, like De Niro, is just having fun with this, like seeing Gordy Howe play goalie at an exhibition. Growing up, while De Niro was considered an amazing actor, Pacino was the one that personified coolness. When his movie was on TV, my parents stopped flipping channels. For him to go out and play a cheeseball like this was great, especially because he too took the role the way De Niro did, as another actor just having fun. One scene really stands out to me. Carla Gugino walks in on him while he's pouring a diet Sprite into a red Solo cup. I don't think I've ever seen anyone look so cool pouring diet Sprite into a red Solo cup. No matter how good or how much fun he has playing a cheeseball, he's still one of the coolest men ever, and even he can't get away from that. It's in everything he does, down to pouring diet beverages.

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One of the reviews I read of this before I watched it said that Donnie Wahlberg out acted Pacino and De Niro. First off, that's not true. If you're expecting The Godfather II, you came to the wrong place, but I think the two of them, even having fun, were far and away the two stars of the film, and no matter how good Donnie Wahlberg gets, I think even he'll admit he'll be lucky if he achieves a tenth of what those two have, and I think he's plenty honored to be in their celebrity basketball game of a movie. The other thing is, and I know I've been guilty of it, this piling on of De Niro and Pacino for all the horrible films they've been in in the last 15 years or so. Sure, I'm not going to let an Analyze That (or an Analyze This for that matter), nor a Gigli or Two for the Money, off the hook when they are such bad films, but I'm not going to blame them for those being bad films like I used to. Even Cary Grant had his Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, and we can't expect them to be Daniel Day Lewis, especially when they had better careers than he did.

I'm hoping, since I gave away the ending, that anyone reading this has already seen it, and I'm curious to see if I'm alone in my take on it, or if I'm giving them too much leeway for a horrible film. If you haven't seen it, I really haven't given away as much as you think by telling you who the killer is, and you may want to check it out anyway, just for the novelty of having De Niro and Pacino together.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1034331/

3 comments:

  1. While I totally agree with you review of the movie... you are aware that Righteous Kill was in theaters right? I saw it opening day with a few friends.

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    1. It was? I had no idea, I spent the entire decade of the oughts on a pilgrimage in the Himalayas. Hahahaha, of course I know this was in the theaters, as are plenty of the films I've reviewed. Back when this review specifically was written, I had a Friday Wild Card post (see the reference to "the Friday spot" in the first paragraph), where I would look at all kinds of things: box office bombs, Hong Kong cinema, bad big budget comic book movies, etc. I imagine you're new to the site, which, in that case, I thank you for stopping by; but in the future I ask that you trust that I know that a film that came out in 2008 with the kind of buzz this one had was released in the theater.

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