Only once before in the illustrious careers of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino had the paths of the two men crossed, in Heat, but in 2008 it happened again, and this was the result. A seasoned cop goes on a killing spree to finish what the force couldn’t, and manipulates his colleagues to keep them off his scent.
Righteous Kill is certainly a lesser film than Heat, with a much simpler plot, minimal character development and little going on beyond tried-and-tested crime film clichés. It’s almost certain that it would have been totally forgotten were it not for its leading men. That being said, it’s not terrible, as its reasonable pace, stylish direction and occasionally surprising moments make it enjoyable, if disposable. But for these greats to star in a disposable film is already a tragedy.
The most surprising thing is the inclusion of Curtis “50 Cent” Jackon as a core member of the cast. It’s like sending Ronald MacDonald to work at the Fat Duck, and is inexplicable, beyond the desire to reach a small percentage of the urban music market. De Niro looks like he doesn’t want to be there, and is unfairly left in an unforgiving grey tracksuit in the final act which doesn’t help him hide his years. Only Pacino really manages to make the best of things.
Ultimately the thrill of seeing Pacino and De Niro share the screen is not enough to make this film great, in the same way The Expendables needed more than Willis, Stallone and Schwarzengger awkwardly flirting in a church. If you want to see these guys together that badly, I suggest you turn on Heat and if you want a film where a criminal cop misdirects the rest of the force go for Martin Scorsese’s The Departed.