For director Jon Avnet, it must have been a surprise to have the opportunity to direct Al Pacino in back-to-back films. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful either one of them will end up being memorable. After 88 Minutes, Avnet teams with Pacino and Robert De Niro in what should be a surefire hit, Righteous Kill.
The scripting and direction are the problems here. This murder mystery gives copious amounts of screen time to its stars, their first time with the opportunity to act together in the same scene. Everything focuses on Pacino and De Niro, effectively eliminating any one else from the equation.
Both play hardened, long time cops. They’ve been partners for years and know each other well. You’ll be reminded of this multiple times, as if the first few reminders weren’t enough. The attempts to throw the viewer off from the real culprit behind a growing murder spree only serves to do two things: make the solution more obvious and the eventual resolution hard to believe since the movie tries everything to pull the viewer the other way.
In fact, it makes the actual motivations for the murderer somewhat baffling. Some of his/her actions are confusing and unnecessary. The killer’s escape plan has a huge hole in it, one with no possible means to fix considering the circumstances.
Secondary characters, including John Leguizamo and Carla Gugino, seem clueless. When they put the pieces together, it’s as if they’re still oblivious to who the perpetrator is. Then again, Gugino’s character isn’t used for much other than sex appeal, including a rather baffling shot of her having sex where the only thing the audience can see is her and bouncing breasts. It literally lasts a second or two and comes out of nowhere, serving no purpose since her relationship was revealed previously.
Even with the outcome being blatantly obvious, the movie still feels the needs to flashback during the final sequence to help the audiences catch all of the little “twists” they may have missed. It’s an unnecessary cap, not to mention it takes away from the tension, drama, and emotion of the final moments.
With the flaws in the scripting, at least Pacino and De Niro do put forth their best efforts. They have some fun, add in some comedy, and play things straight when need be. Anyone who can play this material properly when they’re named “Turk” and “Rooster” deserve an award. They have a natural chemistry on-screen, even if they’re too old to be playing active duty cops. Dialogue however is well beneath their pay grade and unnatural.
The film opens with a brief montage establishing the friendship between De Niro and Pacino, and cuts away immediately when finished to a shot of De Niro confessing the crimes. There are two main characters in this movie. Who’s the only possible suspect left? You just saved yourself 100 minutes.
Anchor Bay delivers a top tier AVC encode. Black levels are outstanding, and shadow delineation is superb. Finding a shot in which the sharpness takes a hit is a challenge, mostly because they’re brief. Noise is intentionally prevalent in flashbacks, and the light layer of film grain is unobtrusive and untouched.
Detail is wonderful, further revealing the age of the two leads. Every crevice and pore on their faces comes through. Flesh tones are accurate, and color is beautifully saturated. Contrast can run hot, the only notable problem that is more than likely intentional on the source.
A surprising TrueHD mix is lively and involving. Given the limited action, the goal of this track is undoubtedly immersion within the city. Cars drive through the soundfield, expertly tracked in each channel. The same goes for elevated trains outside the buildings in which conversations are taking place. Dialogue is audible without the need for adjustment.
Indoor clubs and bars are loaded with activity, and the music lights up the subwoofer with a pulsating beat. Gunfire is placed accurately (although lacking on the low end), and there’s a fun window shattering during the final moments in the left rear. This is a surprisingly robust effort.
Jon Avent delivers a solo commentary to start this awful and meager special features section. The Investigation is a shamelessly promotional making of that isn’t worth your 14 minutes. The Thin Blue Line is a 19 minute documentary on modern police and their daily challenges, but was obviously done with the intent to promote the film as it’s padded with footage. Trailers and generic BD-Live support don’t make up for the rest of the bare-bone extras.