Stand Up Guys
That They Are
It is no secret that Al Pacino and Christopher Walken are getting up there in years, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still play memorable anti-heroes. In fact, their new film Stand Up Guys gives them each one of the best characters in their long and memorable careers. Add to that a great supporting part for Alan Arkin and you have a thoroughly enjoyable movie about a couple of life-long criminals given one last night for illegal hijinks.
Pacino plays Val, a man who took the fall for a crime nearly 30 years ago and has spent that entire time in prison refusing to name any of the others involved. This makes him what he calls a stand up guy and this fact is not lost on his long-time friend and co-criminal Doc, played by Walken. Doc is picking up Val at the prison upon his release with mixed emotions. On one hand, he is happy to see his friend again; on the other hand, he’s not happy that he’s been tasked by a local crime lord with the job of eliminating Val; retribution for the death of the man’s son all those years ago.
Instructed that he has until ten o’clock the next morning to complete the job or become a target himself, Doc decides to give Val one more night of criminal fun which includes breaking into a pharmacy to get some pills that will help him with a local prostitute, stealing and joy-riding in a high-power car belonging to a local thugs with a really bad reputation (“they’re the type of guys who steal your liver and then don’t sell it”), and breaking their former partner out of a local nursing home. Mixed in with all the hijinks are a few dialogue scenes in which the two friends discuss who they were, whom they’ve become, and how they would like it all to end.
Director Fisher Stevens and screenwriter Noah Haidle do an excellent job of balancing the comedy and the action with those character-revealing conversations. The balance allows the audience to get to know these guys through both their words and their actions. And although the movie ends really the only way it could have, there are plenty of small twists and turns along the way that keep the story interesting.
But the real story here are the actors who are definitely the glue that hold this movie together. To my knowledge, this is the first time that these two legendary actors have worked together and their chemistry is immediate; which is a good thing, because only a belief in how great of friends these guys really were could help you to understand the moral dilemma faced by Walken’s character. Also, if we didn’t feel the bond, then the erection jokes really would not have worked. Yes, despite the average age of its cast, this movie is not afraid to tackle some childish humor; but it works!
Supporting Pacino and Walken in the smaller role of the other partner from their past lives is Alan Arkin and he takes advantage of every minute of his minimal screentime. Now, his actions with the steering wheel may not accurately match the maneuvers of the stunt drivers, but the humor of those sequences is not lessened. Nor is the great scene Arkin has with a couple of prostitutes that he hires to fulfill his last wishes. Julianna Margulies is also good in the small role of his daughter and Lucy Punch is an amusing presence as the local Madame.
Little was known of what to expect from Stand Up Guys going in, which definitely worked in its favor. The movie entertains from start to finish and it is great to see some of our best actors continue to shine into their golden years.
Stand Up Guys is rated R for “language, sexual content, violence, and brief drug use.” In addition to the aforementioned penile humor, there are a couple of violent scenes and some definite drug use.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Stand Up Guys.