If it weren’t for the fact that Michael Mann would sue their asses, the makers behind the new cop thriller Righteous Kill probably would have titled their film More Heat. After all, the film’s main selling point is that it reunites the stars of that beloved 1995 crime drama, two little-known actors named Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Mann’s movie famously put these screen legends on opposite sides of the law (Pacino with the boys in blue and De Niro with the criminal element) and pared their shared screen time down to a single major scene. In Righteous Kill on the other hand, De Niro and Pacino are rarely apart and both carry a badge. The studio is clearly hoping that the actors’ increased proximity to each other will draw Heat-loving crowds into theaters opening weekend and they may be right. It’s not like the movie has anything else going for it; if Righteous Kill starred anyone besides Pacino and De Niro (like, say, Billy Baldwin and Steven Seagal) it would have gone directly to DVD and late-night cable where it belongs. This is a thoroughly lazy and bland cop movie with few surprises and even fewer moments of suspense. Even Bobby and Al seem bored by the whole thing, as if they’d rather be sharing old war stories about Hollywood in the ’70s over a big Italian dinner instead of having to, you know, act.

If you’ve seen the trailer for Righteous Kill, you already know that De Niro and Pacino play two NYPD officer in pursuit of a serial killer offing criminals that have managed to escape justice. You also know that said killer is a fellow cop and may, in fact, be none other than De Niro himself. The film’s opening scene-which features the Raging Bull star reading a handwritten confession into a security camera-doesn’t do anything to disprove this notion. But if you’ve ever seen a thriller before, you’ll quickly realize that you’re being set up for a climactic plot twist, one that should become obvious about halfway through…unless, of course, you’ve completely tuned out of the movie by then. Prior to the big reveal, we watch Turk (De Niro) and his longtime partner Rooster (Pacino) investigate these killings with the aid of two other cops, Detective Perez (John Leguizamo) and Detective Riley (Donnie Wahlberg), both of whom are convinced that Turk is their man. While trying to keep their names clean, Turk and Rooster are also working another case-bringing down a big-time Harlem drug dealer named Spider (Curtis Jackson a.k.a. the artist sometimes known as 50 Cent). The always stunning Carla Gugino enters the story occasionally in a thankless role as a forensics investigator who makes time (among other things) with Turk when they’re off the NYPD’s clock.

With Jon Avnet behind the camera, it’s no big surprise that the film lacks any kind of distinctive style. A longtime producer who started directing in the early ’90s, Avnet has never met a script he couldn’t turn into generic Hollywood mush. What is surprising is that Righteous Kill was written by Russell Gerwitz, the same guy that penned Spike Lee’s awesome heist flick Inside Man. That script was filled with memorable bits of dialogue and also pulled off the tricky task of taking all the usual genre cliches and turning them on their head. Whatever mojo Gerwitz had while writing Inside Man apparently abandoned him here, because this script is laughably bad, a hodgepodge of would-be tough guy talk with a smattering of lame one-liners tossed in. It’s like the film was written by a high-schooler who scribbled the whole thing out in one night after watching lots of NYPD Blue repeats.

Material this bad requires great actors to make it even halfway watchable and once upon a time Pacino and De Niro may have risen to the challenge. But both actors have been coasting on their reputations for awhile now and sharing the screen for the first time in a decade hasn’t done anything to jolt them out of their late-career stupor. De Niro seems particularly catatonic, which is a problem since his character is the moral center of the story. His co-star doesn’t fare much better. As much grief as Pacino gets for his “hoo-hah!” routine, a little overacting would have gone a long way to making Righteous Kill more fun to watch. Instead, we’re stuck watching to glum ’70s icons go through the motions in a glum movie. If you’re really jonesing for a Pacino/De Niro pairing this weekend, skip Righteous Kill and curl up on your couch for a double bill of Taxi Driver and Dog Day Afternoon.

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