"Righteous Kill" *** (101 minutes)

Wednesday September 10, 2008

Much has been made of Hollywood icons De Niro vs Pacino's brief one scene confrontation in Michael Mann's brilliant 1995 "Heat". Although these 2 living legends had appeared in the same film way back in 1974's "Godfather II", this was the first time they actually shared screen time together. Many wondered why it took them both to be into their 60's before they traded acting chops again but, as the saying goes, better late than never. Director Jon Avnet (whose career took a misstep with one of this year's major flops, "88 Minutes", after showing much promise with his offbeat 2004's "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" and one of my favorite films of 2001, "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her") barely succeeds in this endeavor by devoting almost every scene to the 2 master thespians. And for that alone, this one is worth the price of admission. In fact this would be a mildly entertaining 2 1/2 star flick if it wasn't for their presence. Just sit back and marvel as these 2 deliver the goods as 2 longtime NY detective partners investigating a serial killer/vigilante trying to clean up the streets of the city after the courts repeatedly fail to do so. Method acting is on display in all its glory in this police psychological thriller that has shades of Sidney Lumet all over it. Both actors are in their very comfortable element once again playing detectives in the city that never sleeps, and watching both you will be reminded of previous movies in which they played the same types of characters. But this time the story by 2nd time screenwriter Russell Gewirtz ("Inside Man") puts enough smart dialogue between them to keep the proceedings moving along to keep you interested. Avnet uses some tiresome frantic cutting; and the constant pounding of the soundtrack to signal incessant dread in the action becomes way overused. However, again, its De Niro and Pacino together that makes it all worthwhile.