Mr. Movie

De Niro, Pacino pairing comes 10 years too late

Righteous Kill has three serious flaws.

Tick No. 1 is director Jon Avnet (88 Minutes). His only helm time resembling the adjective “skilled” is Fried Green Tomatoes in 1991. And even that’s debatable.

Avnet the producer gave the green light to Risky Business early in his career but since then has been responsible for a lot of B-movie crap.

Problem No. 2 is Russell Gewirtz’s (Inside Man) iffy screenplay and Avnet’s incompetent storytelling.

Righteous Kill stumbles all over the place before it finally finds what must pass for focus. All the catchy lines from deceptive advertising designed to lure you to this mess are found in the first 20 minutes.

Their tiny bit of energy drains quickly and leaves you hoping two great actors can perform an emergency jumpstart.

They can’t.

My friend Steve got up and headed for the exit after 30 minutes. It left me wishing I could do the same.

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino are cops, best friends and decades-long partners. Perverts, drug dealers and low-lifes start turning up dead. Evidence says a cop is the killer.

Suspect No. 1 is De Niro’s hot-tempered Turk.

By the way, what is it with casting directors? Aging actors like De Niro are always paired with glamor babes. Turk regularly beds a forensics cop done by gorgeous Carla Gugino.

C’mon. De Niro is 28 years Gugino’s senior. We’re supposed to believe she’s ga-ga over an overweight, temper tantrum-prone guy old enough to be her father?

There are dozens of beautiful actresses closer to De Niro’s age: Julianne Moore, Rene Russo, Sigourney Weaver, Patricia Clarkston and Catherine Keener are just a few.

A strong, early plot hint has De Niro admitting to the killing but throughout the movie, teasing but not tantalizing, clues are tossed this way and that. It makes you wonder.

This leads to dilemma No. 3. The pairing of De Niro and Pacino is a decade too late. Both men shined in 1974’s The Godfather: Part 2. De Niro won an Oscar, and Pacino got a nomination. What they didn’t do is get to share screen time.

In 1995, Pacino and De Niro starred in Michael Mann’s intense thriller Heat. Their performances sizzled, but they only had one scene together. Mann’s thoughtlessness is nearly unforgivable, but fans found just the one scene worth the price of admission.

They were unbelievably good.

Naturally everyone is excited about a pairing where these two legends get to act together in a whole movie. It should be a complete treat, a production producing ground-shaking emotion and unparalleled power.

Nope. It doesn’t happen. There’s a spark here, and a flicker there, but mostly Righteous Kill is all fizzle.

De Niro and Pacino have now played the same basic characters in the same basic style for more than 30 years. They just aren’t interesting anymore.

For the past decade, De Niro has done little but pout and sneer. Without much of a script, that’s about all he can do here. Pacino prances through movies like the last Coca-Cola in the desert. A now patented stentorian style has Pacino shouting inane lines to actors almost as bored as this movie’s audience.

The guy sitting next to my friend Steve’s abandoned seat fell asleep. More envy. One guy gets to leave and another piles up the Zs.

Life is so unfair. I’m not only required to stay, but also I have to stay awake.

Mr. Movie rating: 1 star

Rated R for mature themes, language, violence. It opens today at the Carmike 12 and at Fairchild Cinemas 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself