It’s been 13 years since Robert De Niro and Al Pacino faced off against each other in that wary, late-night diner encounter in Michael Mann’s Heat. They’re together again on screen in the cop thriller Righteous Kill but the question is, have they still got the chops to pull off all that alpha male, testosterone-laden, tough guy stuff?
Jon Avnet’s movie kicks off with a flashy montage of rapid-fire shots, as if bursting to prove to us what hard men Bobby and Al are. Here’s the duo – both on the same side of the law this time, as NYPD cops – grinning and gurning as they pop off round after round on the police firing range; there they are pumping iron in the gym; and here’s Al playing speed chess against multiple opponents, and Bobby coaching a girls’ softball team – but blowing his top at the umpire in case we were starting to think this was a sissy pursuit.
The macho montage then segues into a video recording in which De Niro’s sweat-suit-wearing veteran detective, Turk, is found seemingly confessing to a string of murders committed by a serial killer who leaves bits of poetic doggerel at the site of each slaying. The movie then tracks back to the cop partners’ own investigation into the crimes – with a flash-forward every now and then to Turk’s confession. Is it as clear-cut as that? Of course not. But for all Avnet’s laboured misdirection, De Niro and Pacino seem to be simply going through the motions, as do Carla Gugino’s forensics investigator, John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg’s younger detectives, and Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson’s drug-dealing Harlem club owner.
Heat couldn’t have had a more conventional plot, but Mann delivered the crime-genre clichés on such an epic scale and with such conviction that the viewer was simply blown away. This time, we’re just bored. (Released 16th February)