Robert De Niro and Al Pacino have appeared in the same film four times: The Godfather: Part II, Heat, Righteous Kill, and The Irishman. One of these things is not like the other. The Godfather: Part II is maybe the greatest sequel ever; Heat is a masterpiece; The Irishman is “phenomenal”; Righteous Kill is a generic cop thriller from the guy who directed Fried Green Tomatoes that also stars 50 Cent. Robert Duvall, he’s not. It’s also not a good movie (18 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), as De Niro realized at the time.
During Righteous Kill‘s Italian premiere in 2008, De Niro felt guilty about the swelling crowd that was there to see him and Pacino, two of the finest actors of their generation. As Variety put it in a new profile, “De Niro turned to his co-star, Al Pacino, and expressed regret that all these people were here to celebrate a movie that was little more than a standard-issue cop thriller, one that blistered rather than burnished their legacies.” He told Pacino, “This is a great reaction, but it would be nice if they were here for a movie that we really feel proud about. Next time we’ll do one we like.” That would be The Irishman. Working with your ol’ buddy Marty Scorsese? Not a bad fallback option:
“Throughout our whole careers, we were always up for the same parts,” says Pacino. De Niro admits that the search for roles, as well as the jockeying for the hearts of critics and audiences, colored their professional relationship at points. “We felt competitive as actors,” he says.
No offense to De Niro, but only Mr. Pacino could pull off the Dunkin’ Donuts rap from Jack & Jill. I’m not saying he was robbed for an Academy Award, but he should have at least won Best Totally Dope Rap at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, or something.
The Irishman premieres on Netflix on November 27.