Commercially right, medically wrong…

We are in New York once again. Each place is extremely recognizable; streets crossing at right angles, surrounded by stone buildings, glass towers drilling into the sky, police lights reflecting on the glasses, the metro hosting those fleeing from these lights… Well, certainly, the faces are also familiar. Anyone who has seen a few films and has watched TV for a few hours would know the coffee-doughnut fed and gun-adoring NYPD (New York Police Department) cops.

But, Righteous Kill, a film directed by Jon Avnet which is coming to our cinemas on Sept. 26 has a lot more. Here, we are not talking about just familiar faces; we are talking about two legends: Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.

They are so legendary that they stand a step ahead of the characters they have played, and most viewers find it difficult to remember the name of the characters they play. (If we say Travis Bickle of Taxi Driver, for example, how many people will remember? Or Tony Montana from Scarface…) They are so big that there is no space for anybody in any frame they appear.

Pinching a role is not ethical in acting; but this is the way to become a legend. A smart actor makes a career plan as ‘one legend for each frame.’  This is precisely how the careers of De Niro and Pacino have been, all squashed in a quarter of a century. As the rule remains commonly unchanged, De Niro and Pacino never appear in the same frame in Godfather II and Heat, even though their names were jointly present in the generics.  The one-stage exception where they appeared together in the café seen of Heat is controversial. This controversy adds flavor to the legend.

Righteous Kill is a psychological police film, which intends to achieve box office success by these two legends and “2 in1”marketing discourse. Actually the movie has no any other advantage. It is like a “30-year later” version of a police action TV series of the 1970’s about the adventures of close-friend cops, but this time made into a cinema film. It is a kind of Charlie’s Angels or Starsky and Hutch… Indeed, the film even refers to the   latter series in a part of it. Besides this, the story is poor. The tricks played on the killer’s identity and the surprising end are all the attempts to hide this weakness. An average police action film viewer can easily figure out the answer to the question, “Who is the murderer” in the middle of the movie.  However, the film can be watched with interest until the end bearing the query in mind, “Whether anything important would happen in the end.” The action in the film is also weak; but probably it felt wiser to have the legends of old years talk than making them run.  While thinking whether De Niro or Pacino was better during their verbal duels the minds get confused, creating another reason for the police film lose its charm.

Actually what director Avnet attempted was to have a go with, knowingly or unknowingly, a B-class film. Maybe it was all he could do with the money left after he paid the two legends and 50 Cent to play the Spider. Estimated prices by might give some idea: An average amount that De Niro has been asking for in recent years is $20 million; it is $15 million Pacino asks. However, the budget of this film, again according to, is 60 million dollars. Maybe, the two legends wanted to carry on with their work happily with no hassles after the age of 65, or they came to the idea that there are more important things in life (health, friendship, pleasure) than money. These could be the reasons why they would accept fees below their normal rates.

An explanation has already been given by the couple, proving the theory of the retired general syndrome who starts to do painting after the retirement. They have told English radio station Heart that they would make a comedy movie together after this one. Moreover, De Niro moved a step ahead and said “We might play two sisters”. Fine, of course it is necessary take a wise approach to these comments. But, something is certain: The first kiss has been given; seeing them together from now on would not surprise anybody.

Newsweek Türkiye, October 2008