Friday, September 12, 2008

Together again -- but does it matter?

Yes, I've seen "Righteous Kill," a movie that in another time would have qualified as one of the year's most highly anticipated films. By all rights the first teaming of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino since 1995's "Heat" should have resulted in something exceptional. Instead, we get a poorly written thriller that has been directed by Jon Avnet in ways that create unwelcome distance between viewers and the story.

Avnet's fondness for disorienting close-ups isn't really the main problem here, though: The point is that De Niro and Pacino do little to remind us that they're great actors. Instead, they make us look back to the '70s when they were not only great actors but appeared in a lot of movies that mattered.

This time out, a negligible plot has De Niro and Pacino playing New York City cops who find themselves hunting a serial killer, a story that seems both tawdry and familiar. Forget the details; all I did during this grim and unrewarding thriller was watch De Niro try to turn himself into a clenched fist. And Pacino? Well, he's beginning to look like a permanently ruined version of his younger self.

Had "Righteous Kill" not starred De Niro and Pacino, it would have been one more failed thriller. But it does, and that makes it more than mediocre; it's a dispiriting lesson in dashed hopes. Let's hope De Niro and Pacino are able to take at least more shot shot at big-screen greatness. If they're able to do it together, so much the better.

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