Stand Up Guys Reviews
Christopher Walken, who has discovered his sensitive side in his later years, and Al Pacino are great together, and I can only wish that they unite for a better story than this one. Uneven in tone and genre, the film is best described as Grumpy Old Men meets Carlito's Way, and those two films don't mix well. Alan Arkin, forever sardonic, is hilarious but miscast, only adding to the comedic milieu, until we're supposed to take the film seriously.
Overall, though I'm happy to see good actors giving good performances, even the best actors need a script.
"They don't make em like they used to."
I guess I don't see why this film was so heavily criticized. Stand Up Guys is exactly what it advertised itself to be, nothing more than a star driven film. Sure Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin look like they should have died ten years ago, but they make this film a lot of fun. It's predictable, as the story of old friends getting together one last time isn't exactly a new idea; but the stars make this movie an extremely fun time.
Val is just out of prison where he has been for 28 years. Doc, his best friend picks him up and they hang out for awhile. We learn that Val was in prison for the murder of their former bosses son which was an accident that happened during a job. Doc is supposed to kill Val before 10 am the next day or he will be killed too. So the two enjoy Val's last night on earth by robbing a pharmacy, going to a brothel, and committing some other various crimes. They brake their other friend and former partner out of a retirement home and they do one last job together.
This all goes in a predictable fashion and you see every turn coming. The ending will only surprise those who have never seen a movie before and even most people who haven't would still see it coming. In the end, the story, the predictability, all of that really doesn't matter. This is Pacino's and Walken's movie to carry and they do so beautifully. It's a hell of a good time.
Stand Up Guys is definitely worth the watch, especially for fans of Pacino and Walken, and even Arkin to a degree, although he isn't as big a part of it as the other two. Ignore the criticism and just know that the story isn't breaking new ground and you should be able to enjoy yourself with this one.
Al Pacino plays Val- a career criminal who, as the film starts has just been released after serving a 28 year sentence for refusing to give up an associate. He's picked up by longtime associate Doc (Christopher Walken) who is there to help reintegrate into society. During the revelry they hook up with another associate, Hirsch (Alan Arkin), but, while they let the good times roll, the proceedings are darkened by the fact that one of them has a deadly secret, and has a limited time to deal with a serious situation.
This film is steeped in nostalgia, and, while some of the jokes and situations are a bit stale (the old age jokes especially are kinda groan-worthy), this is nevertheless a fun and breezy romp with some talented thespians there to make it all worthwhile.
Besides the three 70s cinema titans, all of whom deliver solid work (even though Arkin gets underused), the cast also features Julianna Margulies, Vanessa Ferlito, Lucy Punch, and Mark Margolis, all of whom likewise deliver some passable work.
The main focus however, is on the relationship between Val and Doc, and how they attempt to capture and confront the past, as well as figure out how to navigate the future. Even though there is the dramatic undercurrent with the fatal secret angle, this film finds a good balance, and proves to be quite entertaining.
Some of the stuff with Hirsch is a bit rushed and undercooked, but overall things pans out fairly well. The ending takes the Butch Cassidy route, and, while it may seem sudden, I think it was probably the best way to handle things.
All in all, this is pretty okay. It's not amazing or particularly fresh, but I thought it was decent and far better than it could have been, so I say give it a look.
The Plot: In yet another elderly "let's get the band back together" storyline, Pacino and Walken (who each play annoying versions of themselves) are a couple of aging hit-man types that go by the names Val and Doc; who also happen to be best friends. The movie begins on the afternoon that they reunite, after Val is released from a long stint in prison. But when Doc's promise to Val of a night out he won't soon forget, coincides with Val learning that a hit has been put on him, he quickly realizes that Doc's motives may not be all that they seem.
The entire tone of "Stand Up Guys" is in fact its own worst enemy. Beneath this dark storyline, there lies a slew of underdeveloped and rather generic slapstick sequences, mostly between Pacino and Walken, which seems more suitable to a "comedy" such as "Old Dogs" or "Wild Hogs". But far worse than having to hear a barrage of "I don't know how to work this new fangled computer" or countless prescription drug jokes, is having to sit through the multitude of humorless and disturbing erectile dysfunction bits, which seem to be the ONLY driving force of the first two meandering acts of this movie. OK, so if you don't see the problem with this, then let me spell it out for you. If you're going to make "Grumpy Old Men", make "Grumpy Old Men". And if you're going to make a crime drama concerning a hit-man that is ordered to kill his best friend, then make that movie. But by attempting to haphazardly mash these two types of very distinctive films together, all the filmmakers have done is created a movie where essentially the poor comedic humor cancels out all dramatic effect, and vice versa. In short, the tone is the reason (above all others) that we don't care about any of these characters.
Suffice to say, Pacino's erection sadly motivates the first half of the story, but after about 45 minutes there stems a very compelling initial diner sequence, which fooled even me into thinking that this movie was officially going to start getting good. Well that was short lived because soon afterwards Arkin's character makes his first appearance and "Stand Up Guys" ventures into non-sense land, crashing and burning in a wreckage of cringe inducing one-liners, unfathomably impractical situations and asinine revelations, resulting in something that is simply downright pathetic.
The Acting: So when I made mention that "Stand Up Guys" contains terrible performances, this in fact may be the understatement of the decade. Yes, it doesn't help that Pacino can hardly move anymore or that Arkin and Walken continue to play caricatures of themselves, or even how each one of these actors very particular voice cadences gets in the way of any sentimentality "Stand Up Guys" should have had, but at the end of the day, no real excuse can be made for performances which come across as though each actor is reading this script for the first time. Plus, it has come to my attention (through this film and "Seven Psychopaths") that anytime Christopher Walken isn't reciting his lines for ironic laughs, he is literally unbearable to watch or listen to.
Final Thought: And if all of that weren't bad enough, "Stand Up Guys" contains the worst ending of any film this year (so far). But on the other hand, maybe this movie was meant to be a satirical piece of filmmaking, promoting, through subtle yet methodical means, director Fisher Stevens' backhanded theory on how Pacino, Arkin and Walken should be ushered out of the business by any means necessary (short of shooting them all in the heads). If that's the case, then "Stand Up Guys" is still a bad movie.
Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Follow me on Twitter @moviesmarkus
"Stand Up Guys" is a better movie than I was expecting and not as good as it could have been. For example, there is a scene in a cemetery that makes absolutely no sense but still works. In any case, it is always fun watching a couple of old pros do their thing, even Al Pacino who is relatively restrained here. And while the movie does have its share of erection jokes, it is also wistful in tone, telling the viewer the story of this singular friendship over an eventful night.
The biggest thing holding the film back is the script. It features dialogue that is often stilted, and feels inorganic to the characters. The humor is obvious, and rarely clever, and the plot devices are all familiar. Without a doubt, it is the strong cast that elevates the material, and gives the script more of a heft than it should have.
The performances are as good as one could expect, with Walken and Pacino having good chemistry, and Alan Arkin having a great, although overly brief, part. They both have a certain amount of inherent charisma that never ceases to elevate whatever material they are in.
On the whole, it can not be said that Stand Up Guys is not enjoyable. It never ceases to be at least passably entertaining, and does have a couple of good moments. Cliches and a weak script aside, there are some laughs to be had, and some dramatic beats that feel real, anchored by two strong performances.
There were a number of funny parts, and a few laugh-out-loud moments in Stand Up Guys. Walken and Pacino had great chemistry. As hard as it seemed for the movie to move along with a solid story, there was character development. I'd give Walken and Pacino the credit because in the end I'd come to like these guys, especially Doc (Walken). There was a moment between him and a young woman that was touching.
Walken showed some depth, and stood out, in this run of the mill movie. He created a character I enjoyed right off the bat. Alan Arkin and Al Pacino don't do anything spectacular, but do add some character to the film. Pacino has some standard character he goes to in his older age, but it's a character I enjoy. Lucy Punch added a bit as well, having a small but recurring character in Stand Up Guys.
The movie itself was poorly put together. It felt almost like a bunch of clips put together more-so than building a story. Fisher Stevens is transitioning from an actor to a director and benefitted greatly from this cast in his first major release.
Stand Up Guys is good, and if you enjoy it, there is an older movie called The Crew (2000), starring Richard Dreyfuss and Burt Reynolds. It's OK, and about on par with Stand Up Guys. I wouldn't direct you to a theater to see Stand Up Guys, but it's worth a rental.