Righteous Kill

Starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Rated 14A.

At least Righteous Kill’s generic, silly title makes you think of a few ways to use the word righteous while trying to make sense of this not-so-righteous cop thriller starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Mostly, this runs along the lines of righteous concern for De Niro’s mental and physical well-being and righteous fear that those may have been brain cells you felt trickling from your ear during the movie.

The gist of the tired plot is that someone is killing some very bad people—child murderers, drug dealers, and pimps—vigilante-style, and, as sure as movie cops have inexplicable nicknames, tired police detectives Turk (De Niro) and Rooster (Pacino) must nail the trigger puller.

Director Jon Avnet (who also misdirected Pacino in 88 Minutes) and writer Russell Gewirtz (Inside Man) have devised what should be a twisty thriller. Trouble is, although the murderer’s identity could possibly flummox an ADHD toddler, the rest of us can quickly figure it out.

Ever the eyeball-popping thesp, Pacino hams his way through dialogue lousy with clichés. De Niro looks and sounds as though someone slipped elephant tranquilizers into his Scotch. Even the fact that his Turk does it kinky with Carla Gugino’s hot crime-scene investigator neither cheers him up nor convinces us he can get anything up. Gugino works hard while her character gets ass-grabbed by everyone. That includes bored-looking John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg as detective rivals. Brian Dennehy’s lieutenant is so AWOL you forget he exists. As a drug dealer (surprise!), 50 Cent fares somewhat better.

What the two Oscar winners surely can’t forget is their first teaming in the infinitely superior Heat. Where’s Michael Mann when you need him?