Thursday, September 11, 2008

Righteous Kill

Two legendary movie stars pack a real wallop in Jon Avnet's police thriller, "Righteous Kill", which premiered last night in New York City.

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino team up for two marvelously powerful performances as long-time partners on the New York police force. Their characters are gritty, authentic and righteous. It is classic De Niro and classic Pacino and it is the first time they have joined forces for an entire movie. Jon Avnet masterfully balances these mega-watt stars while allowing a strong supporting cast to shine.

The movie centers on the hunt for a serial killer and the intensely competitive internal relationships at police headquarters. Carla Gugino is riveting as officer Karen Coreli, who is very professional but very sadistic. There are no soft and fuzzy characters in this stark, blunt and hard-hearted movie. Donnie Wahlberg and John Leguizamo put in strong performances as tough cops driven to crack the case first. And Curtis Jackson, a.k.a. "50 Cent", is very believable as a Harlem drug dealer and nightclub owner. He certainly knows first-hand about this role.

Viewers will find this movie most surprising!


The Zeigfield Theater is just off 54th and 6th avenue. A line of invited guests stretched from the theater for almost two blocks around the corner to 55th Street. Most guests picked up tickets for their assigned seats at "will call," but confusion and party crashes slowed the process to a snail's pace.

Susan Zirinsky and I were stationed near the entrance, at the head of the red carpet. On one side of the carpet, crowds of adoring fans crushed against security barriers trying to get a picture, a handshake or just a nod from one of the arriving stars. On the other side, throngs of press snatched brief interviews with cast members as they headed into the theater.

"50 Cent" looked as if he had dressed at the GAP. He is powerfully built at 5'11", and has a nice smile and pleasant demeanor. He looked more like a college football star than a guy who once dealt cocaine in the Bronx and who was shot nine times in 1990. But his large hip-hop security entourage was certainly true to their background.

Mickey Rourke's complexion looked very rough. His face was alternatively bloated and scratchy. I imagine his years boxing have taken their toll, although he has certainly enjoyed the good life. He seemed at ease walking the red carpet, smiling but clearly relieved to get to the end. He did not have a role in the movie.

John Leguizamo seemed a bit intense and very focused as he said his hellos. Daniel Wahlberg, wearing a slightly askew paperboy hat, seemed very relaxed as he waved to the crowd.

The crowd buzzed and then roared as Al Pacino and Robert De Niro made their way down the red carpet. They both exude the same magnetism off the screen as on it. Pacino stopped to sign some autographs, De Niro seemed more impatient to get inside.

Chevy Chase, Mayor Giuliani and his wife, Al Roker and wife Deborah Roberts were among those in attendance.

Mingling with the stars is interesting, but this whole scene is often so artificial. For the most part stars love the attention and energy around the red carpet. A few stars try to look unfazed or disinterested in the clamor, they attend only to show support for their film. The stars' extended retinues clog up traffic while trying to look important and cool. Everyone wants to get on Entertainment Tonight. A flood of publicists and event producers try to act important, this could, after all, be their 15 minutes.

The after party took place in a cavernous mid-town warehouse on New York's west side. The hip-hop music was so loud, bouncing off the walls and shaking the building, that conversations were carried out by leaning over and talking directly into someone's ear.

After digesting my stuffed pork and chicken sausage, I gave "Righteous Kill" further thought. Will a $60 million cop movie, with two aging super stars, and with little that is appealing to most women, do well in the box office?

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