RIGHTEOUS KILL

R, 101 min, 2008

Director: Jon Avnet
Writer: Russell Gewirtz (written by)
Stars: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Carla Gugino

Righteous Kill is a police thriller that is a decently engaging example of itself; nothing more, nothing less.

Al Pacino is Detective Dave “Rooster” Fisk who, with partner Tom “Turk” Cowan (Robert De Niro), has worked countless murder investigations over the years in New York City. Currently, they are tracking “the Poet,” a serial killer/vigilante who is going around killing people who got off on technicalities and leaving poems at the scene.

Also working the case are Perez (John Leguizamo) and his partner Reilly (Donnie Wahlberg), who become convinced that a cop may be the cuprit. And there’s Karen Corelli (Carla Gugino), a crime scene investigator who is sleeping with Turk.

Rooster seems to spend much of his time “protecting” Turk from veiled accusations and suspicions that he may be the killer due to circumstantial evidence, their captain (Brian Dennehy) tries to keep them wrangled in, and a high-end dope dealer called “Spider” (50 Cent) gets busted and thrown into the mix in a development that I think can best be described as a red herring.

The film was directed by Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes) and has the distinction of being his first film since 88 Minutes (2007), also starring Pacino in a twist-filled cop thriller plot. This is not a great film, but it doesn’t have to be to be infinitely superior to that mess.

The film is interesting enough thanks to a script by Russell Gewirtz (Inside Man), which is vastly more intelligent than that of the previous film, which was written by someone else (a first-timer, as I recall).

I do have a couple of reservations about this film: for one thing, it relies too heavily on the crutch of red herrings to drag out its plot. For another, it sort of seems to go out of its way to point us in one direction when the actual truth appears right before us (however concealed). Nevertheless, this is a decent film for its type, if little else.

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