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2 stars
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Overall Grade
2 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
1.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3 Stars
Supplements
2 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Skip It

Righteous Kill

Street Date:
January 6th, 2009
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
June 11th, 2009
Movie Release Year:
2008
Studio:
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Length:
101 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

A cop movie starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro acting side-by-side; what could possibly go wrong? Apparently, everything!

'Righteous Kill' is listed at IMDb.com as a thriller. While giving bad names to decent thrillers everywhere, 'Righteous Kill' stands out as an anti-thriller, a movie so mind-bogglingly sluggish and droll it’s hard to fathom why two of the greatest modern actors would choose to be involved in such a terrible project.

Turk (De Niro) and Rooster (Pacino) are both highly distinguished New York City detectives who also happen to be partners. At the beginning of the film, Turk is shown talking on what looks to be an old or dilapidated video recording. As two other investigators watch in horror, Turk describes the people he's been killing. The victims aren’t just anyone, they are low-life criminal scum who, in Turk's mind, deserved to die. The killings are principled, almost…righteous. Ridding the world of the bad, who should care, right?

These snippets of grainy video camera footage of Turk’s confession are interwoven throughout the film as Turk, Rooster, and another pair of detectives (Donnie Wahlberg and John Leguizamo) try to solve the murders.

The mundane, procedural plot moves along at a snail's pace. The 103-minute running time feels almost double that, as Pacino and De Niro seem to sleepwalk through their roles. The writing is awkward, and the performances aren't quite up to what we expect from such big-screen giants. Instead of showcasing these two masters of acting in a movie worthy of their talent, they are mired in a sort of dingy muck.

The story also suffers from complete predictability. On the back of the Blu-ray case is a quote from Larry King of CNN saying "…with a twist at the end that will blow you away." I would amend that to say something like "…with a twist that’s so easy to figure out, you’ll be blown away."

There's no suspense here. No guessing on the part of the audience. No mystery. It's just a poor film from beginning to end. It has the feeling of a mediocre episode of 'Law & Order,' only with more swearing.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The AVC MPEG-4 encoded 2.35:1 1080p widescreen presentation of 'Righteous Kill' will give you much more satisfaction than the movie itself. The video quality is heavy on detail and accentuates the faces of each actor extremely well. While the close-up detail is good, city skylines and flyover shots turn out to be the best scenes to look at. The detail of the buildings and the reflections bouncing off the windows are incredibly realistic.

The scenes where Turk is talking directly at the camera are shot in black-and-white and are extremely grainy. The grain is an artistic choice though, not a product of the transfer, and shows the low quality of the recording device.

There are times where bright outdoor light will wash out the skin tone of an actor, creating a brief period where their face isn’t visible. But other than that, the contrast presented here is very well done. Blacks are consistently dark, while whites - like the New York snow - are impressively bright, but not overdone.

There are a few scenes where there's soft focus, but nothing that detracts from the overall picture quality. No compression artifacts, aliasing lines, or edge enhancement was detected.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Even with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack, the sound quality doesn't fair as well as the video quality. There’s a lot of low talking in this film and the soundtrack doesn't do enough to make it audible at a decent volume. I found myself straining to hear some conversations, so I would turn it up, only to have to turn it back down to the normal level after the conversation was over. Since this film mostly deals with dialogue, which more often than not comes across too soft, the entire soundtrack really suffers.

There are a few club scenes where snippets of deep bass will find its way out of your subwoofer, but other than that it’s pretty silent.

I also need to mention a sound effect within the film's menu. When you select something, a gun silencer sound is produced. While sort of neat the first time around, this sound gets real old real fast. After three or four times, it's downright annoying and overly intrusive, especially when you come back to the menu after having had the volume up loud so you could hear what was being said in the film.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

This is billed as a "special edition," but only because it includes a second disc that is the digital copy.

  • Audio Commentary - Director Jon Avnet is the only one on the commentary track and he’s a bore. If you’re looking for something to put you to sleep, this commentary track is for you. If you’re looking for an enjoyable supplement, you’re not going to find it here. Avnet glosses over what it was like to work with Pacino and De Niro, but never really gives us anything resembling in-depth insight. He provides an occasional play-by-play on how a certain scene was filmed; some of these shot breakdowns are mildly interesting, but overall they are quite dull. In short, you can skip this entire commentary and not miss out on anything, unless you’re a completist who must finish every feature there is. In that case, suffer through it at your own risk.
  • Featurette: "The Investigation" (HD, 14 min) - This is the standard making-of featurette. There’s a lot of Pacino and De Niro back-patting by the cast and crew here, which is to be expected, but when you have a making-of featurette that focuses mainly on two actors rather than the actual film, then you know you've got a problem with how bland the movie is. While Pacino and De Niro are deserving of the congratulations they receive, watching a featurette like this always makes me think of what Gene Siskel used to ask about movies: "Is the movie that I am watching as interesting as a documentary of the same actors having lunch together?" You get the feeling with this featurette that even the filmmakers thought the actors in this movie were more interesting than the movie itself. They're right.
  • Featurette: "The Thin Blue Line: An Exploration of Cops & Criminals" (HD, 19 min) - This is a short documentary of sorts about what police have to deal with day in and day out in their thankless jobs - the horrors they see and the situations and people they have to put up with. It’s mildly interesting in a History Channel sort of way, but seems to give off some sort of excuse for cops becoming vigilantes. It seems to be included to show us how easy it would be for a cop to snap and start killing bad guys on his own terms.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD) - The theatrical trailer for the film is included. (A trailer for Don Cheadle’s 'Traitor' also plays before you get to the menu.)

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There is no new content for this release.

Final Thoughts

Enough has been said about Pacino and De Niro being in the same film together. That's all 'Righteous Kill' has to hang its hat on. Sadly though, a movie is a team effort, and two great actors still can’t pull this film out of mediocrity. Their talents are wasted on clunky dialogue and a painfully predictable police drama. While 'Righteous Kill' does include quite a few scenes of stunning visual clarity (it really does look quite good, so if you're just in the market for a really detailed picture, then pick it up and play it on mute), it's not enough to warrant even a weak recommendation. With the soundtrack, special features, and movie being so bland, this is one to skip.

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Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-25 Single Layer Disc
  • Two-Disc Set
  • Region Free

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.35:1

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround

Subtitles/Captions

  • English Subtitles
  • Spanish Subtitles

Supplements

  • Audio Commentary
  • Featurettes
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Digital Copy

Exclusive HD Content

  • None