This movie has a surprise ending, so I really can’t say too much about it. I began to suspect something about halfway through, but Lee said it fooled her, and I’ll admit I didn’t guess correctly what the surprise would be. That’s enough about that. The attraction of this otherwise fairly standard cop story would be the idea of De Niro and Pacino working together. All those Oscar wins and nominations—De Niro is 2 for six, Pacino 1 for 9—they’ve gotta be good, right? Not according to Francis Ford Coppola, who recently really bad-mouthed them, and Jack Nicholson, as not being hungry enough to be good, and averse to trying anything new:
“I met both Pacino and De Niro when they were really on the come. They were young and insecure. Now Pacino is very rich, maybe because he never spends any money; he just puts it in his mattress. De Niro was deeply inspired by Zoetrope and created an empire and is wealthy and powerful. Nicholson was when I met him and worked with him he was always kind of a joker. He’s got a little bit of a mean streak. He’s intelligent, always wired in with the big boys and the big bosses of the studios. I don’t know what any of them want any more. I don’t know that they want the same things.”
Whew! If you wanted to be catty, one might ask “And what have you been up to lately, F.F.?” but I won’t. … Oh, hell, why not? I didn’t see his last picture, Youth Without Youth (terrible title, I thought), but it was critically panned. Ten years before that he directed The Rainmaker, a pretty standard legal thriller. Hated Godfather III, largely because he cast his talentless (as an actress) daughter in a pivotal role. I’ll never forgive him for that. He’s produced a lot of things in those years, some of it good, some indifferent, some pretty bad, one written and directed by his son … but I can’t see any work by him that could stand beside his work as a younger and … it must be said … hungrier man. So shut up, Francis.
Which is not to say he’s wrong. All three of these guys who were so fresh and new in the ‘70s and into the ‘80s have shown a tendency to act for the paycheck, to phone in the part, to fall back on a persona that comes easily to them. Both De Niro and Pacino do a lot of that here. But the worst thing about this movie, in common with so many others these days, is that it goes on for about 10 minutes too long. A scene that should have ended economically and honestly drags out interminably, making me yawn when I should be riveted. Very few writers and directors know how to end a film these days. Jon Avnet is not one.