Righteous Kill

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Righteous Kill
Righteous kill ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJon Avnet
Written byRussell Gewirtz
Produced by
CinematographyDenis Lenoir
Edited byPaul Hirsch
Music byEd Shearmur
Distributed by
Release date
  • September 12, 2008 (2008-09-12)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$60 million[1]
Box office$78.4 million[1]

Righteous Kill is a 2008 American action thriller film directed by Jon Avnet and written by Russell Gewirtz. The film stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino as New York City Police Department detectives on the hunt for a serial killer. It is the third film in which both De Niro and Pacino appear in starring roles (after The Godfather Part II and Heat), and also stars John Leguizamo, Carla Gugino, Donnie Wahlberg, Brian Dennehy, and Curtis Jackson.

Righteous Kill was released in the United States on September 12, 2008. The film received negative reviews from critics and grossed $74 million against a $60 million budget.


Police psychologists review recordings of a man (Robert De Niro), who states his name as Detective David Fisk, the "Poetry Boy" killer. The Poetry Boy earned the moniker for his modus operandi of murdering criminals and leaving short poems with their bodies. Fisk reveals that he looks up to his partner of almost 30 years, Detective Tom Cowan (whom the audience is led to believe is the character portrayed by Al Pacino), and considers him to be his role model of how a cop should be. Pacino's character is known by the nickname "Rooster" and De Niro's by "Turk", and they are referred to as such outside of the recordings.

These recordings provide a narrative, and the film opens with the tenth victim, a pimp named Robert "Rambo" Brady (Rob Dyrdek). Turk and Rooster investigate the murder with the less-experienced detectives Karen Corelli (Carla Gugino), Simon Perez (John Leguizamo), and Ted Riley (Donnie Wahlberg). When they find a poem on the body, the cops link it to Poetry Boy.

As Poetry Boy murders acquitted rapist Jonathan Van Luytens and Father Connell, a Catholic priest and child molester (whose victims included Poetry Boy himself), tensions escalate between Turk, Corelli, and Perez. Turk is now living with Corelli, who happens to be Perez's ex-girlfriend. Poetry Boy assaults an intended fourteenth victim, Russian mobster Yevgeny Magulat (who survives), and goes on to shoot at Perez's house and rape Corelli. Perez and Riley suspect Turk of being Poetry Boy due to his marksmanship skills and psych evaluations, so they arrange a secretly supervised meeting between Turk and suspected drug dealer Marcus "Spider" Smith (Curtis Jackson), during which Turk supposedly must kill him. Turk proves his innocence during an encounter with this drug dealer as he has the "wrong" gun and humiliating but obviously inappropriate poem. After Perez and Riley leave the scene unsatisfied, Rooster kills Spider. During this scrape, Rooster inadvertently drops his journal.

Turk stumbles upon and reads Rooster's journal; Rooster claims Spider as Poetry Boy's fourteenth victim. Rooster puts Turk in front of a video camera and forces him to read the journal. At this point, it is revealed that the narration set Turk up as a red herring, and Rooster is the actual Poetry Boy. Turk's name is actually Tom Cowan, and Rooster's is David Fisk. Rooster lost his faith in the justice system when Turk planted a gun at the house of acquitted child molester and murderer Charles Randall (Frank John Hughes), convicting him. This leads Rooster to take the law into his own hands as the vigilante serial killer known as Poetry Boy.

When Turk finishes, he chases Rooster to a construction site. Rooster fires aimlessly to convince Turk to report that the Poetry Boy is assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, and fleeing, but Turk resists. When Rooster takes aim at Turk, Turk fires, striking Rooster in the chest. Turk calls for an ambulance, but Rooster begs Turk to let him die. After some hesitation, Turk calls off the paramedics, allowing Rooster to succumb to his wounds. He is last shown coaching a Police Athletic League baseball team as Corelli looks on.



Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes reported that 18% of 147 critics gave the film a positive review, with an average rating of 4.1/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Al Pacino and Robert De Niro do their best to elevate this dowdy genre exercise, but even these two greats can't resuscitate the film's hackneyed script."[2] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 36 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[3]

The Times included Righteous Kill on its 100 Worst Films of 2008 list. Keith Phipps of The Onion's A.V. Club said, "The novelty of watching De Niro and Pacino team up wears off pretty quickly, [with them] trudging through a thriller that would have felt warmed over in 1988. Director Jon Avnet doesn't offer much compensation for the absent suspense."[4] James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film two stars (out of four), saying: "This isn't just generic material; it's generic material with a dumb ending, and the director is a journeyman, not a craftsman. ... Its failure to live up to even modest expectations is a blow. There's nothing righteous to be found here."[5]

Ken Fox of TV Guide also gave Righteous Kill a score of two stars out of four, saying: "The entire movie is one big build-up to a twist that, while not exactly cheating, plays an awfully cheap trick. To get there, writer Russel Gewirtz and director John Avnet sacrifice mystery, suspense, sensible editing and everything else one expects to find in a police thriller just to keep the audience off-guard. It's not worth it, and the first real pairing of De Niro and Pacino is utterly wasted."[6] (The two actors had co-starred in The Godfather Part II without appearing on screen together and in Heat, sharing the screen in just two scenes.)

Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film one and a half stars out of four, saying: "By the time the movie reaches its protracted conclusion, it feels like a slog. Pacino has a few funny lines, as does Leguizamo, but not nearly enough to save the film from collapsing under the weight of its own self-righteous tedium."[7] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave Righteous Kill one star out of four, saying: "Some people think Robert De Niro and Al Pacino would be a kick to watch just reading a phone book. Well, bring on that phone book. Righteous Kill, a.k.a. The Al and Bob Show, is a cop flick with all the drama of Law & Order: AARP."[8] However, Richard Roeper gave the film 3 stars out of 4 and Tim Evans for Sky Movies remarked that the film was "... an effective whodunnit but—more importantly—it poses refined, complex questions about how the law operates in a so-called civilised society."[9]

Al Pacino earned a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Actor for his performance in the film (and for 88 Minutes, also directed by Jon Avnet), but "lost" the award to Mike Myers for The Love Guru.[10]

Box office[edit]

Righteous Kill grossed $40.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $38.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $78.5 million.[1]

In its opening weekend, Righteous Kill opened at #3, grossing $16.3 million, behind The Family That Preys and Burn After Reading.[11] It made $7.4 million in its second weekend and $3.7 million the following two weekends.[1] Overture Films paid $12 million to acquire the film,[12] and stated that they would be happy if this film could gross $25 million in the United States theatrically.[13] By comparison, Heat, which starred Pacino and De Niro in 1995, grossed over $180 million worldwide.

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 6, 2009.[14] As of February 2009, 778,760 DVD units had been sold, gathering $16.9 million in revenue.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Righteous Kill (2008)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 20, 2008.
  2. ^ "Righteous Kill (2008)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 14, 2008.
  3. ^ "Righteous Kill Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 14, 2008.
  4. ^ Phipps, Keith (September 11, 2008). "Righteous Kill". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  5. ^ Berardinelli, James. "Righteous Kill". ReelViews. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  6. ^ Righteous Kill Review, Ken Fox, TV Guide, 2008
  7. ^ Puig, Claudia (September 11, 2008). "'Righteous Kill' just feels wrong". USA Today. Gannett. Retrieved September 14, 2008.
  8. ^ Travers, Peter (September 11, 2008). "Righteous Kill". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  9. ^ "Tim Evans Movie Reviews & Previews".
  10. ^ Wilson, John (2009). "29th Annual Golden Raspberry (Razzie) Award "Winners"". Home of the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation. Golden Raspberry Award Foundation. Archived from the original on April 27, 2009. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  11. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results from September 12–14, 2008". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 14, 2008.
  12. ^ McClintock, Pamela (September 14, 2008). "Variety". Variety. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
  13. ^ Winters, Rebecca (September 12, 2008). "Righteous Kill Pairing Earns Hollywood Shrug". Time. Archived from the original on 2012-02-25. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
  14. ^ "RIGHTEOUS KILL—On DVD and Blu-Ray™ January 6, 2009". Righteouskill-themovie.com. January 6, 2009. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
  15. ^ "Righteous Kill - DVD Sales". The Numbers. Retrieved September 10, 2012.

External links[edit]