Saturday, September 13, 2008

RIGHTEOUS KILL: MOVIE REVIEW

Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, John Leguizamo, Carla Gugino, Donnie Wahlberg, 50 Cent
Director: Jon Avnet
Runtime: 100 min.
Rating: 1/2*
Genre: Thriller, Drama

        Just this other day, out of nowhere, I had a most sudden urge to revisit Good Night, and Good Luck. A film as carefully and as perfectly composed for its actors as there has been in recent memory. A film that might be used to study how camera angles, frames and editing could greatly enhance the nature of the performances. It might be wrong of me to ask a film as technically untidy and confused as Righteous Kill to compare itself to George Clooney’s brilliant film, but it could have learnt a thing or two how to be kind towards its actors and how to add and not to subtract from what they have to offer. Of course, it is a different matter altogether that the principal actors here do not have much to offer, and it seems their art has long left them. Pacino might show a flash or two pulling off some of those tricks he has learned over the years, but nothing here he does is character. It is all Pacino, and you might accept whatever he offers if you’re likely to be thrilled by what can only be called antics. I kind of do, sometimes, and this time I didn’t at all. As for Robert De Niro, I would be ready to offer a treat to anybody or everybody who has an explanation for that frustrated furrowed eyebrows expression on his face he has been carrying for the past decade or so. I have been having real difficulty pining down what it means for it seems to turn up every which where irrespective of the film he is in (The image attached might be of some help). I think he is bored, and frankly so are we. He might be one of my favorite actors, but right now he might give Nicolas Cage a run for his money in fakery.
        The bad news is that isn’t the only problem with Righteous Kill, and I believe if one were to jot down all the problems plaguing it he might as well take a shot at writing a book on how bad movies get made out of a decent idea. This is probably the worst kind of bad movie, the kind which even fails to be memorably bad. I wonder if there’s even a single shot in the film that merits mention. Had it not been for the two names highlighting this project I guess we would have heard of this as a straight to DVD title. And it marks two straight weeks at the movies where I have guessed the suspense within the first ten minutes. How sad is that?
        De Niro and Pacino play two cops, Detective Turk and Detective Rooster respectively, who have been friends for life. The film starts off with the incriminating evidence on Turk – him confessing to a video camera how he has righteously killed 14 criminals who have escaped the punishment of the law. He starts recounting his tale which essentially involves the police force investigating a serial killing case where the murderer kills these dangerous criminals and leaves poems in their vicinity. Now, the way the film begins, you would surely realize within the first quarter of an hour or so the serial killer is anybody but Turk, simply because the film is trying to be too savvy, too flashy, and too clever. It isn’t. It isn’t even smart enough to be able to misdirect the audience, and attempt that comes from that direction feels as if the film considers us dumb enough to look towards the sky in unison when it raises its fingers to point towards a non-existent dinosaur. Yes, the plot is that ludicrous. Nobody seems to have taken the time to understand the idea and structure it into a cohesive plot, because there isn’t one. All we get is brazen adolescent dialog that seems to care a lot for sex, and for that reason alone Carla Gugino’s character (Forensics expert Karen Corelli) seems to exist in the film) – to be the object of physical affection of every which cop in the force in general, and Detective Turk in particular. The film seems to find a lot of time to be devoted to conversation regarding Karen’s wanton lustful desires, and it just exists in the film for no particular reason.
        The problem with Righteous Kill is that it is too influenced. It wants to be Heat, it wants to be a morality play and it wants to be a whole lot of stuff. The problem is it doesn’t realize that it doesn’t have even a single person, and all of the characters in there are chunks assorted from different cop/thriller films. They are given lines to speak, and they do, but there’s no conviction no depth. It is all empty, just like the brains and the heart of the film. The film’s adolescent tendencies reflect on every which turn, be it the developments or be its themes. It depends too much on misdirection when it obviously doesn’t have any meat on its plate. What’s more repulsive are its attempts to hammer us with the fact that Turk is our guy, when we so obviously realize he isn’t. Furthermore, we know who it is. Look at the climax and see how the film turns the tables from an earlier film. Watching it, I felt empty too.
        Later, alone in the parking lot I closed my eyes to relive one of the greatest moments ever committed to cinema – the climactic moment of Michael Mann’s Heat. Neil and Vincent hold hands, and Elliot Goldenthal’s divine music fills the entire space around us. And my heart broke watching two of my favorite actors in such pathetic a condition in this film. Someone tell them I miss those times. They owe us that. They owe themselves that.

3 comments:

chambilkethakur said...

I must say movie is unimpressive, nothing of the sort, these two are capable of.
But i certainly have a feeling that, since i read all ur movie reviews, u have a strong dislike for actors, who are more verbal like Al and Jack Nicholson. any reasons? or their dialogue delivery is just antic, as u say?
I have almost seen all Niro movies and i didn't find any thing impressive till date(yes, i have seen taxi driver, raging bull and even score), the only one which i liked of niro's is man of honor. May be i am little biased with actor being more verbal. Sometimes what goes in their is little too tricky to be observed with Niro giving same age-old expression all the time. Still he is great actor.

One more thing, as compared to Dark Knight, Tim burton's Batman is nowhere, but Burton has definitely done justice to batman, what it could have been done then. Not to mention his use of extensive colored imagery, exquisite cinematography and music(any given day he is a great artist as compared to Nolan). Jack Napier at times appear overdone, but as u described squealing screeching maniac, I strongly disagree. Joker(Jack) is more close to what bob kane have create.
I apologize, if anything sounds offensive, just expressing my views.

man in the iron mask said...

Anuj,
Al Pacino is one of the greatest and one of the most profound influences on me, first as a movie-goer and more importantly as a person. I consider Michael Corleone to be the greatest performance of all time by an actor. He is an actor of the greatest stature possible, and more so that Marlon Brando. And yes, he is one of my favorites.
Jack Nicholson on the other hand is a fantastic performer. He can do wonderful things, he is a trickster who is fantastic to look at, like Easyrider or in The Shining, but he isn’t someone who could affect you at a personal level. You’ll laugh with him, you’ll see how wonderfully he delivers a line, but you wouldn’t necessarily have him create a character that is going to influence you ever. As I said, he is a performer, awesome to look at, but nothing to take home. He is all external.
I would beg to disagree with you here on Burton’s Joker being what Kane and more importantly Jerry Robinson and Bill Finger created. Napier was all Jack Nicholson, he wasn’t creepy or funny, he was mildly irritating. He looked a clown, and he was reduced to a set of influences. The Joker is, in my opinion, the greatest fictional supervillain of all time, and even the comics never give a reason to his nature. He is an absolute, there is no origin story to him. Even his entry into the comics was out of nowhere; he just enters their world and commits gruesome murders. Burton reduces him to a common their and criminal. That is a shame.

Nolan, on the other hand understands the essence of the character. It shows.

chambilkethakur said...

thanks satish,
i am glad its not all I-don't-like-them, u have a clever interpretation of cinema and profound understanding of characters.
I would like to hear your view on some characters and some movies, which are quite old, you SURELY would have seen them. I would list them, if u are free please do write about them.

By the way the name is anu"Z". anyway cya soon. waise i am about to write something on stanley kubrick, but i haven't seen his first two movies(which i am unable to find), so my review is incomplete.