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Righteous Kill (2008)

Anchor Bay Entertainment
DVD Released: 1/6/2009

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/6/2009

There used to be a Marvel Comics series entitled Marvel Team-Up. Each month, Spider-Man would be paired up with another superhero, both prominent and obscure, and they would have an adventure together. (There was also a Marvel series called Marvel Two-in-One, which had The Thing working with another hero, but I always felt that Marvel Team-Up was the more popular of the two.) Despite the fact that some of the issues were interesting and popular, as they featured main Marvel characters such as Wolverine and Ghost Rider, few Marvel Team-Up issues became very valuable. This had to do with the fact that while the characters were good, the stories rarely amounted to much. The film Righteous Kill is very similar. It features to Marvel Team-Up caliber actors, but the story leaves much to be desired.

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino star in Righteous Kill as New York City Police Department detectives Turk and Rooster. They are investigating the murder of a pimp, when Turk is offered cocaine at a nightclub. The pair then take on a second case of trying to bring down the drug dealer, Spider (Curtis Jackson). Meanwhile, another murder, very similar to that of the pimp, occurs. And then another. Turk and Rooster begin to realize that someone is killing criminals, more specifically, criminals who were tried, but not convicted. As they share a common case, Turk and Rooster team up with Detectives Riley (Donnie Wahlberg) and Perez (John Leguizamo) to find the killer. As they put the pieces together and more victims are found, they start to think that the vigilante may be a police officer. Could a killer be amongst their ranks?

Obviously, the big draw of Righteous Kill is that Oscar winners De Niro and Pacino finally get to share the screen for an entire film. Both actors were in The Godfather, Part II, but were never on screen together and they only shared one scene in Heat. But, in Righteous Kill, they are together for practically the entire film. This works, not only because the two are seasoned veterans, but because it truly feels as if there is a bond between them. On-screen chemistry aside, it's rare to see a movie where we truly believe that the two characters have worked together for years, but we get that here. The two share a bond which means that we believe them as hardened policemen, but there is also an underlying emotional connection.

But, despite the fact that De Niro and Pacino are good here, Righteous Kill probably isn't the dream project for which fans have been waiting for years. While Director Jon Avnet tries his best to maintain a slick look and a good pcae for the film, the script by Russell Gewirtz simply doesn't offer enough "oomph!" to support the film's two stars. The story begins as a flashback movie, and then it turns into a mystery, and then it's not a mystery, and then suddenly there's an incredibly cheap twist ending. Once the twist happens, the movie wants us to have a Fight Club-esque reaction and suddenly realize that we were misinterpreting much of what we had been seeing. Instead, the twist is very lame, and ultimately, predictable. Righteous Kill sets up a series of suspects and clues, and we eventually realize that everything was a red herring, and there never was a mystery in the first place. The movie is also further complicated by the Spider subplot. This takes the story into too many directions when it should have stayed with he mystery...or whatever you want to call it.

About 70% of Righteous Kill is a competent buddy-cop/thriller. Again, De Niro and Pacino are great, and they're surrounding by a good supporting cast including Brian Dennehy and Carla Gugino in addition to Wahlberg and Leguizamo. (And after The Happening, I think that I have more respect for Donnie than for Mark.) The story works up to a point, and then runs out of gas, leaving the audience underwhelmed. Hopefully, this won't be the last time that Pacino and De Niro work together in this capacity.

Righteous Kill engages in a little rough sex on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a minute amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, but the image is a bit dark at times. There is no overt artifacting or haloing, but I did notice that the picture was a tad soft at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are quite good, and the movie isn't afraid to highlight what's happening off-screen. The surround sound effects are good as well, most notably during the night-club scenes. These same scenes offer music which really impacts the bass effects.

The Righteous Kill DVD contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Producer/Director Jon Avnet. While Avnet's soft-spoken approach may lull some listeners, this is a good talk. His scene-specific comments obviously address the collaboration of De Niro and Pacino and what that brings to the film. He also discusses the script, the other actors, and the locations, bringing a sense of detail to it all. "The Investigation: An In-depth Look at Righteous Kill" (14 minutes) is a making-of featurette which contains comments from the cast and filmmakers. The first third of the piece is taken up by praise for the movie bringing De Niro and Pacino together to actually shares scenes. From there, the segment examines the story and the shooting of the movie, including the film's attempts to be realistic. "The Thin Blue Line: An Exploration of Cops & Criminals" (19 minutes) gives away secrets from the movie within seconds of beginning. After that, it becomes a documentary which mixes clips from Righteous Kill with comments from experts and former policemen about what police officers deal with, why they become cops, the stressors of the job, and how police officers cope. The extras are rounded out by the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has also brought Righteous Kill to Blu-ray Disc. The film is letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only the slightest hint of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, and the Blu-ray doesn't show the slightly dark look of the DVD. The image shows a high level of detail and some shots show a generous amount of depth. The Disc holds a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.4 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a powerful track which provides nearly constant stereo and surround sound effects. These effects are highly detailed and from every shell hitting the floor to street sound, we hear it all. Again, the scenes in Spider's club provide great surround sound and bass. The few action scenes deliver very good stereo effects and explosive subwoofer.

The extras on the Blu-ray Disc are the same as those on the DVD.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long