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Righteous Kill is a 2008 crime thriller film directed by Jon Avnet, and starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino,. Righteous Kill also features John Leguizamo, Carla Gugino, Donnie Wahlberg, Brian Dennehy, and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson. The film was released in the United Statesmarker on September 12, 2008.


The film opens with a character nicknamed "Turk" (De Niro), appearing on what looks like security camera footage, introducing himself as Detective David Fisk and confessing to the murders of 14 people. The black-and-white footage of Turk's confessions narrate the story and are interwoven in the color footage of the film's main plot:

New York police detectives Turk and his partner, "Rooster" (Pacino), are working on taking down a drug-dealing club owner called Spider (50 Cent). They plant a wire on a female lawyer caught using drugs, purchased from Spider, but Spider becomes suspicious and finds it. Turk and Rooster rush into Spider's office and get her out, but not before Spider's bodyguard aims a gun at them and a shootout begins. Spider's man is killed and the lawyer gets shot as well. Turk handcuffs Spider and beats him until being pulled away by Rooster.

Turk and Rooster are ordered by their lieutenant (Brian Dennehy) to begin sessions with a therapist. The doctor gives the cops notebooks to write down whatever feelings they have.

In court, a rapist that Turk had arrested is set free on a technicality; Turk, furious, threatens the suspect. The next scene shows the rape suspect being shot to death in his apartment by an unseen assailant. The killer leaves behind a poem for the detectives to read as a clue. He is just the latest in a line of criminals who have been murdered with a poem left at the scene.

Also investigating the murders are Detectives Perez (Leguizamo) and Riley (Wahlberg). There is tension due to Turk's dating Perez's ex-girlfriend, Detective Karen Corelli (Carla Gugino). Rooster concludes that due to the lack of struggle in all the recent murders, the killer could be a cop. Perez and Riley become receptive to the idea, while Turk becomes upset.

Rooster and Turk look at a convict they had put away for similar murders, Charles Randall (Frank John Hughes), but it doesn't appear to be him. A flashback reveals that Randall was falsely convicted on a murder charge because Turk, despite Rooster's attempts to stop him, had planted evidence. He did so after Randall was acquitted of a murder that Turk was convinced Randall had actually committed.

Corelli realizes that Randall's conviction doesn't match up and takes it to Perez and Riley, who begin to suspect that Turk is the murderer. Turk suggests a possible suspect could be a former cop who was fired for corruption on the job. Perez and Riley investigate it but the man has an alibi. Perez and Riley take it to the Lieutenant, who shares their suspicions of Turk.

Rooster secretly invites Perez and Riley to a bar for a meeting. He brings along a woman who confesses to lying on the stand to protect Randall during his first trial. After she leaves, Rooster confesses to his own role in planting evidence against Randall, but he does not implicate Turk. Rooster agrees to work with Perez and Riley in investigating Turk, but is adamant that they will not find a thing.

Someone shows up at Perez's house and tries to shoot him. He suspects it was Turk, who is a crack shot. Tensions rise since Turk begins to suspect that Perez and Corelli have resumed their affair.

Turk and Rooster talk about their therapy sessions and notebooks. Turk admits that he has never even written a word, thinking of the entire thing as a joke. Rooster pulls his out and shows that he has been writing in the notebook all along, but refuses to show it to his partner. While at the bar, they see a Russian gangster named Yevgeny Mugalat (Oleg Taktarov) talking to associates.

Corelli heads home but is followed, so she goes upstairs and calls Turk. Turk takes her gun away and asks her if she trusts him. She says yes. Turk demands that she get him information on everything Perez and Riley have on him.

Mugalat is shot and a poem is left behind. But when he survives, a guard is placed for protection outside of his door because Mugalat has seen the killer's face and will be able to reveal the identity of his attacker.

Spider is released from jail and calls Turk. He tells Turk that he has information on the murder weapons no one else has. Turk agrees to meet up with Spider at his club. Spider is working as a mole for Perez and Riley and they are hoping to catch Turk in the act.

Corelli is assaulted by the killer. She goes to Mugalat, who is now awake, and shows him a picture of the man who assaulted her. Mugalat positively identifies him as the one who shot him.

Turk is meeting with Spider while Perez, Riley and Rooster watch everything on camera. Turk appears about to kill Spider, pulling out his gun and a special poem for him. The other detectives bust in. Rooster grabs Turk's poem and reads it aloud. It says he knew that the entire operation was a sting and laughs at Perez and Riley for trying to trick him.

A dejected Perez and Riley tell Turk that they are not done investigating him. Spider makes a phone call while Turk rests in a chair. Rooster briefly leaves the room, leaving his notebook on the chair (the same one that he wouldn't let Turk read earlier). Turk begins to read, while in the background, Rooster sneaks up behind Spider and shoots him in the head.

Rooster then points his gun at Turk and tells him to read the notebook out loud and look into the security camera in Spider's office while doing it, which is where the footage of Turk "confessing" to the murders comes from. Turk is reading not his own confession, but rather, Rooster's confession into the camera (revealing that it is Rooster's real name which is David Fisk, rather than Turk's, which is Thomas Cowan). Rooster then destroys the camera so it can't film the rest of their conversation.

Rooster says when Turk planted evidence to convict a suspect, Rooster lost faith in the system and in his partner and that once he began enforcing his own (albeit illegal) system of justice, he became hooked on his own methods of vigilantism and couldn't stop himself.

Rooster tries to escape. Turk, who is unarmed, catches up and begs him to stop. Corelli arrives and wants to kill Rooster for raping her. Rooster taunts Corelli and then runs off. Turk takes her gun and begins to chase Rooster through the club. Rooster begins to fire at Turk, intentionally missing so Turk will have no choice but to fire back. Rooster recites a poem about his righteous kills and then says that they are going to need a 10/13 (officer down call) and points his gun at Turk, leaving him no choice but to shoot his partner several times. Turk calls an ambulance, saying an officer is down, but Rooster persuades him to change the call to a coroner case and call off the ambulance. As he dies, Turk folds his arms.

Later, Turk gives a pep talk to his girl's softball team, his future uncertain, but indicating he'll go on being what he's been all along, a dedicated detective.



The film has received negative to mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 21% of critics gave positive reviews based on 132 reviews. Metacritic gave the film a 36/100 approval rating based 27 reviews.

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." 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."

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." (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." 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 and Order: AARP." However, Richard Roeper gave the film 3 stars out of 4.

Box office

On its opening weekend, Righteous Kill opened at #3, grossing $16,288,361, behind The Family That Preys and Burn After Reading respectively. Its final box office tally was approximately $40 million domestic (US/Canada) and $38 million international for a total of $78 million. By comparison, an earlier movie that paired DeNiro and Pacino, Heat, grossed over $180 million worldwide.

But this film is profitable for Overture Films (this film's United Statesmarker distributor); Overture Films paid $12 million to acquire this film,[486670] and Overture Films stated that they will be happy if this film could gross $25 million in the United Statesmarker theatrically. [486671]

DVD Release

The DVD and Blu-ray of the film were released on January 6, 2009. About 954,000 DVD units have been sold so far, gathering $15,828,184 in revenue. This does not include Blu-ray sales.

Stockwell Tube controversy

The film's poster and tagline, 'there's nothing wrong with a little shooting so long as the right people get shot" was prominently featured throughout London Underground stations during the film's release. One of those stations was Stockwell tube stationmarker, where in July 2005 police marksmen shot and killed Jean Charles de Menezes, mistaking him for a terrorism suspect after the London Bombings. He was proven to be innocent. During the inquest, the jury were taken to the station to retrace de Menezes' steps as part of the inquiry, and the tagline was seen and noted by the jury and judge, resulting in calls for it to be removed from the underground due to poor taste.

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