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`Righteous' cast makes all the difference in crime drama.

Byline: Daniel M. Kimmel

COLUMN: MOVIE REVIEW

"Righteous Kill" is a serviceable crime drama with a few surprises, but nothing out of the ordinary - except for its cast. It's the third career pairing of two of the best movie actors of their generation, Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, and yet it's the first time they really get to work together.

Their first team up was in "The Godfather, Part II" (1975), which starred Pacino and featured DeNiro as young Vito Corleone. They had no scenes together. That was supposed to be rectified with "Heat" (1995) with Pacino as a cop on the trail of DeNiro, but with the exception of one scene they had virtually no screen time together. Now arguably past their prime - DeNiro is 65, Pacino is 68 - they've both done too many films in recent years that were not worthy of their talents. If "Righteous Kill" isn't quite up there with "Taxi Driver" or "Serpico," at least its gives them parts that bring out their best.

Turk (DeNiro) and Rooster (Pacino) are two veteran New York cops who, as their boss (Brian Dennehy) jokes, have more than a century of service between them. It's one of several references to their ages but it's made clear that the only way they're going to leave "the job" is by being forced out or carried out. Their lives are defined by the gun and the badge.

Their latest case involves a serial killer who is murdering vicious criminals who managed to beat the rap. The film tips us off from the start who the chief suspect is, and the movie is about figuring out how to get the killer - a cop who has lost faith in the justice system. On that level the film provides the requisite jolts and red herrings before providing a satisfactory conclusion.

The real attraction is the cast that includes not only the two powerful stars but also Dennehy, Carla Gugino as a forensics expert in a sexual relationship with Turk, and John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg as two other cops on the case. They provide strong support so that it's not just the Al and Robert show.

Yet, in the end, it is Pacino and DeNiro who make this worth watching. Pacino can be a flamboyant actor when there's not much else to play. Here, though, he has reined himself in. Rooster is clearly the livelier of the two cops, yet Pacino lets us see he's also weighted down by years of experience. As for DeNiro, one of the biggest disappointments at the movies has been watching this incredible actor sleepwalking through forgettable fare like "City by the Sea" or "Hide and Seek." As Turk, he creates a layered and complex character, kicking a handcuffed suspect in one scene and coaching a girl's softball team in another without breaking stride.

"Righteous Kill" is a great actor's showcase in spite of being only an OK movie.

Fans of the two stars will not want to miss it.

`Righteous Kill'

* *-1/2

An Overture Films release

Rating: R for violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and brief drug use

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Key to the Stars

* * * * ... Hot Stuff

* * * ... Good Job

* * ... Not Bad

* ... Never Mind

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE DeNiro
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Title Annotation:LIVING
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Movie review
Date:Sep 12, 2008
Words:543
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