For the first time in 13 years, legendary actors Robert De Niro and Al Pacino got to share the screen once again as Thomas Cowan and David Fisk, who play NYPD veterans who investigate the murder of a pimp. The 30-year veterans soon realize that they’re dealing with a vigilante attempting to dish out his own brand of justice and question whether they put the wrong man behind bars. Righteous Kill has an intriguing premise with a strong pair of actors in front of the camera; however, the movie was trashed by critics and currently sports an abysmal 18% on rotten tomatoes. Unfortunately, the news didn’t get any better for the Robert De Niro and Al Pacino vehicle as it made a decent $16.3 million in the opening weekend; however, it failed to recoup the $60 million production budget by the end of its initial run. So, what happened? The film had a pair of talented and respected actors in a story that should’ve been great; however, the 2008 feature faltered both commercially and critically. Let’s dive deeper into the reasoning behind Righteous Kill bombing at the box office.
Al Pacino and Robert De Niro’s Star Has Faded A Bit
Al Pacino and Robert De Niro will always go down as some of the greatest actors of this generation. Both men have multiple classics in their filmography; however, there’s no denying that Pacino and De Niro’s film choices haven’t been all too great since 2000; Hide and Seek, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, 15 Minutes, Godsend, Gigli, 88 Minutes, and Two for the Money, are just some of the critical failures that have dampen Pacino and De Niro’s star power. Many of the new generation haven’t seen Taxi Driver, The Godfather, Scarface, or Heat, so the audience for DeNiro and Pacino is likely in the older demographic. As I previously mentioned, the film made a solid $16.3 million in its opening weekend, but the buzz surrounding these two veterans reuniting for the first time in over a decade was quickly eclipsed due to how bad Righteous Kill actually is. Despite the strong potential, Righteous Kill turned out to be a bland mess that fails both De Niro and Pacino. The veterans give it their all, but this predictable feature lacks any true meat to the story that allows the two veterans to truly shine. Bad word-of-mouth can easily kill any film. The Friday the 13th remake, All Eyez On Me, The Devil Inside, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Fifty Shades of Grey notably dropped the second weekend despite strong openings. This should go without saying, Righteous Kill needed to be great because it was targeting a more mature audience who values quality a lot more. Unfortunately, the star power of De Niro and Pacino just wasn’t enough to carry this bad film forward.
The Director Isn’t Known By The Mainstream Audience
Jon Avnet is not Martin Scorsese. This isn’t a shot at the director’s skills; however, he simply doesn’t have the name value that the Oscar nominee has. When you look at Avnet’s filmography, most of his works come from his time as an executive producer for famed kids movies such as George of the Jungle, Inspector Gadget, The Three Musketeers, and The Mighty Ducks. Avent’s directional efforts in the director’s chair have been hit-or-miss, though the filmmaker doesn’t have any big hits on his resume. Avent has yet to build his name because he doesn’t have enough features that most fans deem as classics. Guys like Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron, The Coen Brothers, or Scorsese have a distinct style and several classic films that most audiences enjoy. The most notable movie for Avent is Fried Green Tomatoes, which garnered $119.4 million at the box office. Despite having a formidable cast that also includes Carla Gugino and John Leguizamo, the hype for the movie once the trailer dropped wasn’t as high as if this was a Scorsese pic. Granted, that’s likely an unfair comparison, but Pacino, De Niro, and Scorsese are a perfect and recognizable trio that could’ve easily packed theaters around the country. Given that the weekend of September 12, 2008 saw a lackluster box office with Burn After Reading getting the No. 1 spot with a little over $19 million, Righteous Kill should’ve been an easy win. However, four movies were competing for the same demographic, with The Dark Knight and Tropic Thunder the biggest hits in the box office charts at the time. In the early 2000s, September was typically a slow time for the box office, but at the end of the day, Righteous Kill was just a forgettable project that you’ve seen countless times before.