Righteous Kill

by Rick Grant
Rated R
101 min
Someone is killing bad guys and leaving poems at the scene. Two veteran detectives, Turk (Robert De Niro) and Rooster (Al Pacino) of the NYPD are on the case. Yes, in this umpteenth cop scenario written by Russell Gewirtz and directed by Jon Avnet. What a cast! Starring two of the greatest film actors of our time that are finally in the same movie and appear in all the scenes together. It could be construed as anticlimactic because of Gewirtz’s convoluted script which sets-up the viewer with a clever subterfuge that is revealed near the end. Still, the sight of these two grizzled titans acting together overcomes any flaws in Gewirtz’s script and his set-the-hook ending. Of course, viewers who see this film will debate which actor looks older. If wrinkles were the criterion, then Pacino would win my vote.
As the two dogged detectives delve into the case, the evidence starts to point to a serial killing cop, which is a rare, if not a first time suspect. Turk and Rooster are top notch investigators with a high percentage of convictions on their busts. But over the years, hey have operated in a gray area in certain cases and even planted evidence on a child killer just to get the scumbag off the street. However, Turk and Rooster’s detective colleagues, Det. Simon Perez (John Leguizamo) and Det. Ted Riley (Donnie Wahlberg) are suspicious that Turk could be their killer cop, which puts them in an awkward position with their senior detectives.
Sure, Simon and Ted have their suspicions, but there is no physical evidence and the guns used are untraceable. So, they have to tip-toe around the case as Turk and Rooster plod on with their investigation. Lieutenant Hinges (Brian Dennehy) is Turk and Rooster’s boss and he tells Turk that the circumstantial evidence is pointing to him, so he and Rooster need to find this killer to negate the suspicions on him. Lt. Hinges refuses to believe that Turk is a serial killer, but all the dead guys were his cases.
Turk refuses to retire after over thirty years on the job. He’s dating forensics analyist Karen Corelli (Carla Gugino) and they have a hot sadomasochistic sexual relationship. So, Turk is living life to the fullest and oblivious to the rumors that he is the serial killer. He’s just doing his job. Rooster’s only goal is to protect his partner from the undercurrent of suspicion. He implies that if Turk did it, then it was justified as far as he was concerned. He’s seen one too many rapists, killers, and child molesters and has thought about offing them himself. Whatever happens he’s behind his best friend and partner. But deep down, Rooster along with Simon and Ted believe Turk is being set-up. They refuse to believe a veteran cop with a stellar record could be a serial killer.
When Turk tells Rooster “this conversation never happened,” Rooster is perplexed but still keeps a positive attitude. As the investigation grinds on, Rooster is resigned to Turk may just be the guy doing the murders. Then Karen, Turk’s squeeze is attacked by an intruder and gets beaten up, She is furious. This could be a major breakthrough in the case. Secretly, Karen may have liked the beat down. She’s into pain.
Gewirtz’s scenario is full of NYPD Blue tough cop jargon that sometimes seems cliche. Still, viewers will be riveted by De Niro and Pacino’s magnetic screen presence. Pacino resists the urge to overact and plays his character straight, with a philosophical attitude. In other words, Rooster doesn’t give a crap about what happens. He’s just tired and hanging in there well past his retirement age for something to do. He doesn’t want to retire, go to Florida and open a bar or spend his time fishing off a pier. He still gets off on busting bad guys.
This movie is a must-see for De Niro and Pacino fans. They are funny and interesting together. The revelation at the end will seem like Gewirtz blatantly manipulated the viewer, but its great theater and allows De Niro and Pacino to strut their acting chops