John Avnet

Righteous Kill

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



Tom "Turk" Cowan and David "Rooster" Fisk are both NYPD Detectives and Partners for over 30 years. The story involves investigation into the activities of a serial killer within the police department who is murdering many convicts who have been let off the hook by legal loopholes and is justifying his act with poetry.


Righteous Kill was directed by Jon Avnet, written by Russell Gewirtz, and produced by Avi Lerner, Daniel M. Rosenberg, Boaz Davidson, Lati Grobman and Randall Emmett.

The plot revolves around police investigators hunting a vigilante killer. Righteous Kill had a budget of $60,000,000 and is an independent production put together by Nu Image's Millennium Films and Emmett/Furla. The film began shooting September 2007 in New York and Bridgeport, Norwalk, Stamford and New Haven, Connecticut & Lawrence. Veteran screen and stage actor Brian Dennehy also was cast for the film, as well as actor and singer Donnie Wahlberg (Band of Brothers) plus Dan Futterman, Trilby G Manda and professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek.

This is Pacino's and DeNiro's third film together, starting with 1974's The Godfather Part II (in which they portrayed Corleone mob kingpins young and old but shared no screen time) and then the 1995 crime drama Heat, in which they played cop and robber but appeared side by side in only two scenes.

The script originally called for an old cop and young cop dynamic, but De Niro, the first lead actor to sign on, suggested Pacino after reading the screenplay. Pacino said he felt a connection with the troubled detective: "It's not in my guy's DNA (to retire). ...Probably, his ambition is to die on the job. Sort of like an actor." De Niro said he had wished to perform alongside Pacino in such an expanded role for some time, but said "it's easier said than done" to make it happen. He added, "I wish at times we had been more proactive, but we weren't. Life, you know?"


Critical reaction to Righteous Kill has been mixed to negative. The film currently holds a 23% "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 37 out of 100 on Metacritic.

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.

According to, the box office total for this film as of Oct. 7, 2008 was $38,001,083.

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.


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