Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Jon Avnet and Overture Films present a duel between two veterans in "Righteous Kill"


Once again, the new trend in independent film is find some top stars and put them in a confrontation. And, after all, what kind of pair-bond lends itself to cinematic scrutiny is two aging cops, partners for decades, where one or both of them could be suspects in a series of “righteous” police killings. Robert De Niro (Turk) starts off in black-and-white flashback, apparently accounting for the series of crimes. Al Pacino (Rooster) starts the film with a simultaneous exhibition of chess games, conferring checkmate, seeing six moves ahead on each board, his opponent resigning after being mated (which isn’t possible). Pretty soon their boss is telling them to see a shrink (the “couch” is the metaphor) and keep high-school-like journals of their thoughts in little composition notebooks (not in online blogs).

The film is Jon Avnet’s “Righteous Kill,” distributed by Overture Films (affiliated with Starz and Paramount Vantage, and developing a brand around “larger” independent films about social issues, often with major stars) and produced by several well-known companies, including Millennium Films and Grosvenor Park. It is written by Russell Gewirtz. The music score by British composer Ed Shearmur sometimes sounds like genre police thriller music, but ventures into interesting modalities that sometimes resembled Britten. Visually, the film, though in 2.35:1 aspect, seems a bit confined, mostly indoors, and despite all the physical activity (and flashbacks of the slayings) it seems rather like a play.

The title of the film suggests the idea of vigilantism, and perhaps the idea (or fantasy) that police naturally want to exercise and implement their own version of "justice", whatever the law. There is one scene where a Catholic priest is brutally shot at close range at a confession by one of his past victims. That gives a sense of what some of the revenge motive is about.

The ending may seem a bit of a twist, but there are not that many logical possibilities.

Picture: from the National Rifle Museum in Virginia.

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