Psycho Killer, Qu'est-ce Que C'est?

righteous-killCops. They're everywhere. All over my city. All over my TV set. On prime time, all over cable, syndicated reruns, at the movies. Good ones. Bad ones. Even the occasional psycho. There's the CSI franchise, the Law & Order franchise, reality cop shows, forensic shows, psychic detectives, even pet detectives. Makes a person wonder if we are truly in last days of a civilized society and whether the creative suits greenlighting this programming are so cynical about our society that they truly believe that criminals are running the asylum. I'm indifferent to most of it, save for my Tuesday night fix of FX's The Shield.

But there I was on Wednesday night standing in a ridiculously slow-moving VIP check-in line at the majestic Ziegfield Theatre for the star-studded premiere of the latest cop drama, Righteous Kill. I'd typically not waste two hours of theater time for this genre, content to wait for its DVD/cable release, but I was drawn to the premiere because it features two of America's greatest living actors, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Two men with very impressive resumes whose -- unfortunately -- most riveting work remains etched in the '70s and '80s. You think of De Niro and you think of Scorsese; the two have made many cinema classics. Pacino as Serpico, or as Michael Corleone in The Godfather trilogy.

The only other time they've acted together on celluloid they played adversaries in the Michael Mann-directed crime saga Heat (1995). But this buddy cop thriller explores the boundaries of their friendship. It's directed crisply by Jon Avent, pairing the acting legends as two grizzly ol' Manhattan detectives who've seen better days, but inexplicably refuse to retire. Hell bent on cleaning up the mean streets of New York, they continue to push all the wrong buttons. They're as comfortable as a couple who've been married for 30 plus years and find one another's foibles endearing.

Yes, the story is entertaining and sports a clever plot twist, though I figured it out about half way in. And it's always great to see a film actually shot in our city. The actors seem to enjoy their verbal repartee on screen, and while neither role is a stretch, neither man dialed it in. They're just so good at these types of characters that they make it look easy. Thankfully, Pacino isn't screaming at the top of his lungs in any scenes, something that he's done in many of his movies as of late. Their final dramatic moment together -- albeit a tad drawn out -- is riveting, both flexing all their acting muscles in their aging bodies.

However, this movie isn't without fault. I found it an enormous stretch for the insatiable, 30-something, forensic detective Karen Corelli -- played by gorgeous Carla Guigino from Entourage and the soon-to-be-released Watchmen -- to be in a turbo-charged sex relationship with the grumpy, short-fused 60-plus-year-old Turk (DeNiro). I ran into her at the screening and she is breathtaking. Impossible for the camera to dress her down, but I guess with so many folks sold on the airbrushed perfection of CSI's stunners, most moviegoers will allow for this type of "realism." I couldn't help but wish for a more mature actress in this role, such as Joan Allen.

Too bad about that miscue, as the rest of the cast features some of America's better character actors inhabiting completely believable rolls. The always steady Brian Dennehy as the detectives' boss, Lieutenant Hingis. John Leguizamo as the young, ethnic hotshot Det. Simon Perez, and Donnie Wahlberg as his partner Det. Ted Riley help bring a gritty edge to the cast. Even rapper 50 Cent, AKA Curtis Jackson, as one of the baddies is terrific. But even with all of that fire power it's unrealistic to believe in these days of CGI-generated spectacles that Righteous Kill will clean up at the box office like the characters clean up New York's crime-riddled streets.

peace.

Dusty Wright

dusty-yell

Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released 3 solo CDs, recently contributed to Chris Butler's The Devil's Glitch project (the longest song in the world), and a member of the folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was an agent at William Morris!

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