"Burn" at the Box Office: Why De Niro and Pacino Deserve a Righteous Kill

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What the hell? The Coen brothers score No. 1 and their biggest box-office opening ever ($19.4 million) with Burn After Reading, a movie that most critics rated "meh." I still hold that a middling outing from the Coens is worth more a hit from a hack (hello, Tyler Perry). What really burns me is that a hunk of cinematic excrement like John Avnet's Righteous Kill can actually amass $16.5 million despite crushing reviews and a trailer that lets you know exactly what kind of junk it is. Is it residual affection for the star shine of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino? Many reviews of Righteous Kill argue that De Niro and Pacino haven't made a good film in decades. So I've put together a test. Below is a list of films that De Niro and Pacino made just in this decade so far, 13 each. Look and weep or cheer. Check out the list, then we'll talk.

ROBERT DE NIRO

Righteous Kill (2008)

Stardust (2007)

The Good Shepherd (2006)

Hide and Seek (2005)

The Bridge of San Luis Rey (2005)

Godsend (2004)

Meet the Fockers (2004)

Analyze That (2002)

City By the Sea (2002)

Showtime (2002)

15 Minutes (2001)

The Score (2001)

Meet the Parents (2000)

AL PACINO

Righteous Kill (2008)

88 Minutes (2008)

Ocean's Thirteen (2007)

Two for the Money (2005)

The Merchant of Venice (2004)

Angels in America (2003)

Gigli (2003)

People I Know (2003)

Stuck on You (2003)

The Recruit (2003)

Insomnia (2002)

Simone (2002)

Chinese Coffee (2000)

De Niro earns points for the failed but fascinating The Good Shepherd, which he also directed, and The Score, just for watching him act with Marlon Brando. And don't say watching him act with Pacino in Righteous Kill should also count (that wasn't acting, it was shameless showing off). Meet the Parents was certainly better than its boorish sequel Meet the Fockers. The others? They were not merely beneath him, they were beneath contempt. To watch him with Dakota Fanning in Hide & Seek is to see a legend brought low.

Pacino was brilliant and then some as lawyer Roy Cohn in Angels in America, but that was for TV. He was also memorable as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, if anyone had remembered to see it. And he was superb as a dark knight of a cop for director Christopher Nolan in Insomnia. But the rest offered Shouty Al histrionics that verged on self parody. Gigli was a famous flop, and 88 Minutes, from the same director of Righteous Kill (did Pacino not learn to steer clear?) marked a career nadir. But three solid turns in three risky movies win the day over a series of De Niro paycheck performances.

Agree? Disagree? Pick the best and worst movie each actor starred in this decade. Now's your chance to roll.