Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Two tough guys

De Niro and Pacino have the chemistry, but they can't save a lackluster film

Posted By on Wed, Sep 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Adding up two tough-guy icons like Al Pacino and Robert De Niro is a plus, even when subtracting a good script and competent direction only to arrive at a sum mildly greater than its parts.

In the first dizzying minutes, this serial thriller is so dementedly off-kilter it seems headed for bad-movie heaven, or a cuckoo-land of narrative incoherence and extreme close-ups where logic goes to die. It eventually calms down and reveals itself to be an average plodding procedural, with Bob and Al engaging in an extended macho pose-off and geriatric bromance, as two of the most grizzled murder cops still pounding a Manhattan beat. The decaying thespians are "Turk" (De Niro) and "Rooster" (Pacino), a team of world-weary detectives so respected that other cops refer to them as "Lennon and McCartney."

In time-honored crime-flick style, these noble old dogs are sick of watching incompetent lawyers and irresponsible judges set perps free, so when somebody starts offing known creeps, they hardly break a sweat hunting for the poetry-writing serial killer. As bodies pile, the grumpy gramps' level of dedication is called into question by the boss (Brian Dennehy, who looks ready for some shuffleboard action) and nosy younger cops, played with hammy flourish by Donny Wahlberg and John Leguizamo.

In the suspicious mix we see Carlo Gugino as the brilliant and devastatingly hot CSI investigator who's into relationship-free rough sex with leathery old Turk, which oddly enough, isn't the most unbelievable thing in the movie. As the victim list gets awfully convenient and the suspect list gets too close for comfort, the longtime partners seem ready to turn on each other, which leads to a shocking "twist" ending predictable only to those who've seen a mystery movie.

The thrill here isn't in watching hack director Jon Avnet (88 Minutes) cleverly wrap the plot in loops around itself while trying to outmuscle Michael Mann, but in watching two old pros attempt to inhale all the air in one room at once. They appear more jazzed by being around each other than on any recent solo paycheck grab, as De Niro does his simmering powder keg act and Pacino delivers lines with his famously quirky pauses that make nearly every sentence an adventure.

It's a shame they've waited this long to co-star in a project so lackluster, but it's still a kick to watch two masters at play, even if it's just in an extended episode of Law and Order: AARP Unit.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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