Righteous Kill Movie Poster Image

Righteous Kill



Old pros battle brutal vigilante, muddled story.
  • Review Date: September 11, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 100 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A serial murderer justifies behavior by killing only those who have escaped punishment and "deserve it." Cop is seen as heroic when he frames a known murderer for something he didn't do.


Lots of images of point-blank shootings, resulting in bloody deaths; a woman is attacked and beaten by an unseen assailant as she enters bathroom; bloody face of dead 10-year-old girl is revealed; close-range shoot-out between two cops and drug dealers; priest is shot while taking confession; baseball brawl between adult males; beating and kicking of handcuffed suspect by police.


Woman appears to be object of stalker and is grabbed from behind -- but then consensual sex begins off-camera; "rough" sex glimpsed briefly once from a distance; sexual innuendo in male-female police banter.


Constant cursing from beginning to end. Nonstop use of multiple forms of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole." One racial insult.


Heinz ketchup seen in foreground.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Several instances of social drinking; one character smokes; a young woman snorts cocaine in nightclub bathroom.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that from the very first scene at a police target range to the final sequence in which the killer is revealed, this crime thriller is all about guns, bullets, body count, serial murders, bloody victims, and vigilantism. The killer is on a crusade to administer "justice" in cases in which the legal system has failed. Victims are shot at point-blank range in several sequences, and language is consistently crude and harsh. The limited sexuality between two adults is loveless and highlights "rough" sex. A young woman snorts cocaine in a nightclub bathroom.

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What's the story?

Someone is killing bad guys who've gotten away with high crimes. World-weary, aging detectives Turk (Robert DeNiro) and Rooster (Al Pacino) lead the investigation into the series of vigilante murders. But when the evidence leads to someone within the police ranks, finger-pointing and suspicious behavior set other cops working on a case against one of the two veterans. Events reach their climax when one of the vigilante's victims survives and Turk's lover/police colleague (Carla Gugino) is attacked.

Is it any good?


An overly complex plot, characters who behave illogically, and the hackneyed theme of payback for crimes unpunished spoil the long-awaited pairing of iconic movie stars DeNiro and Pacino. But for some part of RIGHTEOUS KILL, it's worth the effort. Pacino delivers some genuinely funny dialogue, and his performance is winning and relaxed. He's far less intense than he's been in his last few outings. And strong performances from John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg help cover the looming plot holes that eventually can't be ignored.

Unfortunately, as written, DeNiro's character doesn't give the actor an opportunity to plumb the depths he usually finds in his roles. And, overall, Righteous Kill is a violent movie that doesn't live up to audience expectations.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why movies that show frustrated people taking matters into their own hands appeal to audiences. What's the difference between a superhero punishing criminals and a more realistic movie in which ordinary citizens act as judge and jury? What are the positives of having a judicial system that gives criminals rights to a fair trial, presumption of innocence, and due process? What are the negatives of this system?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 12, 2008
DVD release date:January 5, 2009
Cast:Al Pacino, Carla Gugino, Robert De Niro
Director:John Avnet
Studio:Overture Films
Run time:100 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and brief drug use.

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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