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Righteous Kill on a Wednesday

Posted by RB Kollannur on September 21, 2008

2008 has been the year of the masked vigilantes with Batman and Iron Man wooing audiences the world over. Well, now it’s time to remove the mask of super powers (okay, neither Batman nor Iron Man has super powers, but u get the idea) and bring them down to earth. “Righteous Kill” and “A Wednesday” brings you veteran actors donning the colors of normal day to day people who chooses to stand up to crime and get rid of it.

“Righteous Kill” is a disappointment because it wastes the talents of two of the most charismatic actors on the silver screen – Al Pacino and Robert de Niro. When you consider this was the major pull for audience, it adds on to the disappointment. It starts off with the video of a cop confessing to killing criminals who manage to save themselves from the clutches of law. The movie is a flashback, with the cop, Turk (Robert de Niro), and his partner, Rooster (Al Pacino), teaming up with two other cops, Riley and Perez (Wahlberg and Leguizamo) to catch a serial killer, who has been bumping off criminals.

De Niro and Leguizamo play similar characters, both are seen as a short fuse and wears the badge with their heart, rather that the brain. Rooster is more calm and thoughtful, and also mostly silent. So, Pacino does not get opportunity to take on his acting prowess early on. Riley and Perez seem to portray a younger version of Turk and Rooster, though Wahlberg has an almost non-existent role. The story centers around Turk, as he tries to wade off suspicion from his fellow cops and balance his job in the middle of an internal affairs investigation. Perez is convinced Turk is the killer, while Rooster insists he is not. The movie drags on at a slow pace and is unfortunately devoid of any humor, except for a remark about the Brady Bunch and Turk’s relations with a forensics detective. There is an interesting twist in the end, more of a deception by the scriptwriter, than an actual suspense, but otherwise the movie has very little to offer except for the opportunity to watch Al Pacino and Robert de Niro share the same screen.

“A Wednesday” brings you an Indian perspective to vigilantism. The common Mumbaikar, plagued by the spate of terrorism in his city and the helplessness of the police, takes up arm and decides to finish the job. Commissioner Prakash Rathod (Anupam Kher) receives an anonymous call threatening bomb blasts at different locations in the city unless four terrorists in police custody (not yet convicted) are freed. To prove his point, he reveals a bomb placed in a nearby police station. Quickly, Rathod sets up a task force. The Chief Minister tries to buck responsibility, but finally delegates all authority and responsibility needed to Rathod. The caller (Naseeruddin Shah) is shown to have good knowledge of technology, staying one step ahead of the cops, even manipulating the media as well, but stops short of creating mass hysteria. Rathod tries in vain to find the caller and is assisted by Jai (Amir Bashir) and Arif (Jimmy Shergill). Left with no options, Rathod reluctantly allows the prisoners to be set free (with chief minister again trying to buck the responsibility), only to be surprised to find the caller intended to kill them. Deed done, the entire case is buried and erased from all records.

Anupam Kher brings out a classy performance as the distressed cop, who has to deal with a weak willed Chief Minister, unconfident to make a decision, and a master criminal, who always has the upper hand. Jimmy Shergill pulls off a nice cameo as the hot headed cop, ably supported by Amir Bashir, as the voice of logic. Naseeruddin Shah portrays his role with a touch of panache and elegance. The movie is punctuated with intelligent humor which blends well with the story. Jai gives an absolutely hilarious interview in an occasion, straight out of the MBA handbooks – talk a lot, but say nothing.

Vigilante justice is often frowned upon by the law, but gains mass support. The movie touches up on most aspects of vigilante justice, though some of them in a subtle way like the indecisive chief minister. A weak government, which cannot confidently make a decision for the fear of retribution or accountability, is drawn to impotence and provides an ample environment for terror to strike. When the lawmakers do nothing, can their law? The common man, having to face the mask terror up close and personal, is drawn out to correct the system. His only desire is to do the right thing and in this occasion it works out for the best. But then it is silently swept under the carpet, so that it does not encourage repetitions.

And no, I saw neither movie on Wednesday


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