In the first film of 2013 worse than "Movie 43", "Stand Up Guys", which contains a rather intriguing premise, is absolutely ruined by a perfect storm of tonally clunky direction, a script filled with some of the stupidest dialogue (I swear, some of the lines here are out-and-out plagiarized) and a wealth of surprisingly terrible acting from Al Pacino, Alan Arkin and Christopher Walken; not to mention, Lucy Punch (Bad Teacher) doing one of her worst accents yet.
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
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