Thursday, July 19 , 2018, 3:16 am | Fair 63º

 
 
 
 

Cinema in Focus: ‘Righteous Kill’

This psychological murder mystery is a dark, engaging and powerful drama.

3 Stars — Thought-provoking

The fact that more police do not lose their moral footing is an amazing thing. Having to put their own lives in harm’s way in order to protect us, police officers have to immerse themselves in the underside of humanity with all the stench that such a place emits. When their personal danger and sacrifice is added to the often frustrating reality that dangerously destructive people are able to avoid prosecution because of legal technicalities, then a sense of righteous indignation can overwhelm the soul. Although this film chronicles an extreme reaction, a psychological and moral study of these pressures is presented in Jon Avnet‘s film Righteous Kill.

Written by Russell Gewirtz (Inside Man), the story is complex and engaging, though its subject is dark and unpleasant. The central characters are two veteran detectives, each with more than 30 years of service in the New York City Police Department.

Turk (Robert De Niro) is the passionate and compassionate member of the partnership who angrily reacts to both the horror of the crimes he investigates as well as the injustices he sees in the courtroom. Rooster (Al Pacino) is the intelligent and contemplative partner who plays chess in the park as well as evaluates the next moves of the killers and rapists they are trying to capture.

The plot revolves around a serial murderer who begins killing the criminals in a personal vigilante crusade. As the evidence mounts, it becomes increasingly clear to the two detectives that it is a police officer who is committing the crimes. Although they emotionally applaud the “righteous” nature of the judgment upon the criminals who are killed, they are nevertheless charged with the legal and moral responsibility to bring the killer to justice.

Included on their investigative team is their lieutenant, Hingis (Brian Dennehy) and two younger detectives, Simon Perez (John Leguizamo) and Ted Riley (Donnie Wahlberg). Adding a twist of both psychological dysfunction and sexual tension is Karen Corelli (Carla Gugino), whose passion for sadomasochism intersects with her work as an investigator of brutal and sexual murders and rapes.

Since the story is a mystery, we won’t tell any more of the plot, but the theme is resplendent with spiritual and moral questions. Who is a righteous person and what is a righteous act? What is faith, and does it matter in whom we place that faith? What is trust and loyalty, and what is a loyal act? When injustice occurs early in our life, how will it erupt later? What makes vigilante justice enticing and yet what would happen if we took matters into our own hands — both to us and to our shared lives?

Righteous Kill proclaims by its title that the deaths we will see are done for righteous reasons. The engaging twists within the film grab both our attention and our minds as we walk through both the morality and the implications of that claim. The film is R rated for language, violence and sexual content. This is not a film for sensitive viewers.

Discussion:

» The observation that “99 percent of the people are not even aware of the 1 percent who are trying to harm them” explains why we need police protecting us. Have you ever had the need to turn to the police for protection? How did the police respond?

» The fact that the murderer was abused as a young boy planted a time bomb within him as he looked for a “perfect role model.” When the role model disappointed him, he fell into a moral and psychological abyss. What do you think would have happened if he had been able to discuss and truly purge his inner pain with his counselor instead of using the diary to poetically plan his murders?

» Why do you think it is that more police do not lose their moral footing? Or do you disagree with this assumption? On what evidence do you base your opinion?

» Is killing a person ever a righteous action? If so, under what circumstances? Why?

» Do you identify with any of the people in the film, in terms of your own response to a personal crisis?

Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >