Righteous Kill is only the second pairing of two of cinema's greatest actors - Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Their first on-screen collaboration, only featured them together in a couple of scenes, and left the public wanting more.
Righteous Kill has them playing NYC detective partners who've been on the job for 30 years. A serial killer start killing criminals who gotten off on technicalities. Soon, all the evidence points to the killer being a cop. And the cop would seem to be De Niro's character, Turk, a rough-edged type who isn't above falsifying evidence to convict suspects. He's balanced out by Pacino's Rooster, a calm, soothing influence on Turk in a relationship that seems as much like a marriage as it does a professional partnership. Added to the mix are John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg as younger cops investigating the killings and Carlo Gugino as a forensic specialist in a relationship with DeNiro.
The movie works well as a police drama, less so as a mystery, although the solution of the killings does take some interesting turns. If two lesser actors were playing Turk and Rooster, the film might have been touted as asking interesting questions about the nature of friendships, partnerships, and romantic relationship amid all the stresses and strains of police work. But with De Niro and Pacino in tow, the viewer expects more, and doesn't necessarily get it with this film.
However, the two greats still know how to pull off great performance, and know how to elicit sympathy, affection, and every other possible emotion from an audience. Righteous Kill isn't a complete misfire, but might require a third teaming of these great actors.