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Righteous Kill

MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and brief drug use.

Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Crime, Drama
1 hr. 41 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 12, 2008 (2,800 theaters)
DVD: January 6, 2009
Copyright, Millennium Films/Overture Films Copyright, Millennium Films/Overture Films Copyright, Millennium Films/Overture Films Copyright, Millennium Films/Overture Films Copyright, Millennium Films/Overture Films Copyright, Millennium Films/Overture Films Copyright, Millennium Films/Overture Films Copyright, Millennium Films/Overture Films Copyright, Millennium Films/Overture Films Copyright, Millennium Films/Overture Films
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Millennium Films/Overture Films

About murder in the Bible

How does viewing violence in movies affect the family? Answer

How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer

How can I decide whether a particular activity—such as smoking, gambling, etc.—is wrong? Answer

The final judgment of God

Featuring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Curtis Jackson, Carla Gugino, John Leguizamo, Donnie Wahlberg, Brian Dennehy, Trilby Glover, Saidah Arrika, Alan Rosenberg, Sterling K. Brown, Barry Primus, Melissa Leo, Alan Blumenfeld, Oleg Taktarov, Shirly Brener, Frank John Hughes, Terry Serpico, Liza Colón-Zayas, Malachy McCourt, Ajay Naidu, Charles F. Krichman Jr., Rob Dyrdek, James Shanahan, Fatso-Fasano, Mia Barron, Andrew Blake, Chris Cenatiempo, John Cenatiempo, Judy Del Giudice, Bryan Chatlien, Shalaya Patty Ford, Shaun Kelvin, Merritt Wever, Les Chantery, Katie Bukovsky, Tyrone Smith, Jim Jones, Darryl Pittman, Margaret Head, Katarzyna Wolejnio
Director: Jon Avnet
“88 Minutes,” “Fried Green Tomatoes”
Producer: Jon Avnet, Boaz Davidson, Danny Dimbort, Randall Emmett, Brian E. Frankish, George Furla, Lati Grobman, Avi Lerner, Alexandra Milchan, Marsha Oglesby, Scott Putman, Daniel M. Rosenberg, Trevor Short
Distributor: Millennium Films, Overture Films

“Most people respect the badge. Everyone respects the gun.”

On the surface “Righteous Kill” is a detective movie that seems like all the rest. But the acting of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino gives it substance and some sense of something new. If this movie starred any other actors, it would have come off bland and way too familiar, like watching a TV mini-series.

Detectives Thomas Cowan (Robert De Niro) and David Fisk (Al Pacino) have been together for near onto 30 years in the NYPD. Close as brothers with an uncanny ability to crack a case sooner and better than most on the force, they seemingly can do no wrong.

With time ticking on their career clock, retirement age is creeping up on them, there is one last case which has caught their attention as well as that of a couple of bright young talents on the force, Detectives Riley (Donnie Wahlberg) and Perez (John Leguizamo).

Cowan and Fisk, known to everyone as “Turk” and “Rooster” take Riley and Perez under their tutelage to brainstorm and crack the case centered around a string of serial killings going through the New York underworld. It seems the killer is zeroing in on suspected criminals that the law has not been able to pin down in a court room, but the police know are guilty. The 14 murders all are quick, clean with no prints or solid clues left behind, accept a small card with a poem left with every victim.

Heightening the suspense is the fact that “Turk’s” girlfriend Karen Corelli (Carla Gugino) used to be Detective Perez’s girl and that there is a deep dark secret that “Turk” and “Rooster” share from their earlier cop days, as well as the fact that throughout the entire film we see black and white video footage of “Turk” confessing to the murders, helps to keep “Righteous Kill” lively and full of intrigue.

Rated “R” makes it obvious that there will be violence, graphic murder scenes and bad language. Hints at rape, at sexual intercourse, as well as blood, drug use and debase situations not at all fitting for children, let alone Christian viewers. But, as I expected for a gritty New York city cop movie, the f-word was used like a conjunctive adverb. It came out of Pacino’s mouth even before the opening credits were through.

Most of us can accept the idea of suffering in general, especially as an outcome or consequence of bad behavior. In other words, if someone lives a reckless, wicked life, committing horrible atrocities, and faces the repercussions of those deeds, we say, “They got what they deserved. They reaped what they sowed, and it finally caught up to them.” Such is the back story through this film, that it was poetic justice, but that doesn’t make it right to murder a man for being evil. That is the righteous flaw in moral relativism.

For as slick, well acted and fast paced “Righteous Kill” is, let it be a lesson in no matter how upright appearances might be on the outside, evil still lurks beneath. And I am not talking about the criminals in this film, but rather the characters who were suppose to embody the truth, those who were the righteous, were just not so. It also takes on the idea that killing off the bad guys just might not be a righteous act, after all. This movie does surprisingly give us the moral in the end, that we as human beings haven’t got the luxury of taking the law into our own hands. It obviously belongs somewhere else. The mistake it makes is not to take it the step further and answer this question, “Then who’s luxury is it?”

As Christians armed with His Word, we know that luxury is God’s. He will judge, and he will dispense the sentence. No human or human court of law can ever take the place of the ultimately Righteous Law of God.

There just is no moral excuse for murder or taking the law into one’s own hands, that ultimately is God’s job. The problem with the theme of “Righteous Kill” and the mindset of today’s society for that matter is moral relativism.

Moral relativism can be defined as a lack of moral absolutes. It is the belief that just because something is true to you doesn't necessarily mean that it is true to me. Moral relativism teaches that we are all basically good, and if we do something bad, it is because we are victims, the result of our upbringing or environment. Moral relativism teaches freedom from all restraint.

The characters “Turk” and “Rooster” removed God's absolutes from their lives. It is no surprise, then to see how this film ends. it was no surprise to me to see chaos breaking out as a result.

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus says these words. That God sees behind appearances. He looks past what seems good and righteous, into the evil things in a man’s heart.

“If you’re honest in small things,
You’ll be honest in big things;
If you’re a crook in small things,
You’ll be a crook in big things.

If you’re not honest in small jobs,
Who will put you in charge of the store?
No worker can serve two bosses:
He’ll either hate the first and love the second
Or adore the first and despise the second.
You can’t serve both God and the Bank.”

The basis of morality is belief. The basis of belief is the Bible, which gives us the absolute truth that we can base our faith on. When we say there is no right and wrong, when we do not have this belief, then the result will be chaos.

God has given us His commandments for our own good: to show us how to live our lives. To see how He sees, to know the example of Jesus is the only way to live our lives in a world full of injustice and sin.

Jesus summed it up for us in Luke 16:11-22.

“What society sees and calls monumental,
God sees through and calls monstrous.
God’s law and The Prophets climaxed in John;
Now it’s all kingdom of God—the Good News
and compelling invitation to every man and woman.

The sky will disintegrate and the Earth dissolve
Before a single letter of God’s Law wears out.”

No human vigilante such as was “Turk” and “Rooster” will ever take the law into their own hands and set things right. Only God can and will do that forever, and His Law will always be moral, just and righteous and never ever wear out.

In His Word lies the poetic justice we seek.

(Biblical reference: “The Message”)

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative—I found this movie very offensive on every front as a christian. It was a movie based on non existent morals and broken conscience toward God.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
Darien, age 48 (USA)