STAND UP GUYS Review

Stand Up Guys is a stand up film about friendship and mortality, about life and how time waits for no man. It is an enjoyable and sometimes poignant film that breezes by at an hour and a half and rises above its tired script with three performances that aren't phoned it but truly felt. The magic of the film is that it captures each of its actors in that perfect stage of life. Though both Christopher Walken and Al Pacino do a fair amount of films each year (plenty of which can be horrible) there is something about this film that brings them together and instead of using their images and stature as some kind of inside joke or piece of propoganda to lure in audiences they are treated like actual human beings. Well, as far as human beings who were once crooks and gang members might be humanized. I think Christopher Walken gave one of the best performances of his later career in last falls Seven Psychopaths and while this role doesn't allow him the range of that character his reclusive Doc here is something of a different man in general. Doc is what anchors the film and though Pacino gets the flashier role of Val and Arkin is here for purely comic relief and realization, Doc is the guy who has given the situation time and perspective and Walken does a fine job of doing a lot with a little. I enjoyed Stand Up Guys immensely despite it taking the easy way out every now and again (especially with the humor). We can see the jokes coming from a mile away and I would have much rather had some natural banter between the two leads. The complacent direction from Fisher Stevens help nothing about the film stand out either but he should be more than thankful his actors are more than capable of getting the point across.

Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Katheryn Winnick, and Alan Arkin in Stand Up Guys.
This is also one of those films that seems to give away every beat of the screenplay in the trailer. This might be another reason the final product felt so lackluster as I felt like I'd already seen it, but I guess it is my fault for watching the trailer in the first place. And so the story goes that after twenty-eight years of being in prison Val (Pacino) is set free and is greeted by his friend Doc (Walken) as he walks out a free man. Val is quick to realize Doc has fallen into a routine of what old men do, and that isn't much. Val wants to party, wants to exercise his parts and get into some trouble. Doc is up for it as he seems happy to oblige Val's every request. Their escapades through the night finally reunite them with their other friend Hirsch (Arkin) who was once their getaway driver. Arkin is a riot in any role he takes on even if he is essentially playing the same crabby old guy that enjoys being a little left of center. Though he only shows up for a short time here, he is still a welcome presence and brings a good amount of energy and that much needed adventure that Val was seeking. And again though it is given away in the trailer, I will only say that Walken's Doc has a heavy burden on his shoulders. It isn't all that big of a secret (the marketing team surely didn't think so) but it is what adds the meaning to the first day and night that Val has out in the world again. It adds, as he would say, that appreciation. By the time some of the subplots of the film find their nicely wrapped resolutions and Pacino and Walken do their thing with a fine amount of class you will be unable to leave the theater without at least the smallest hint of a smirk on your face.

That is said with the thought in mind you go in knowing what you are getting. As I said, the trailer clearly painted out what the picture was going to be and on what kind of level this film was going to operate (which is why I was surprised when it seemed to get an awards season push). The film stands on typical plot structure and story mechanisms that have it unfold predictably but the characters in which it looks at this way are what draw the intrigue as we would normally expect for the bad guys to have anything but a predictable day. It is funny in that these guys are, or at least were, the bad guys we usually don't get a ton of insight from but are instead forced to look at as expendable and not getting to their golden years where they have to pick up what pills they need or how "out of the game" they might become as time passes them by. That is the charm of the film and the three principal actors know this and know that it is up to them to prove the chemistry the winning ingredient of the otherwise bland set-ups. In the end, that is the reason to see the film as Walken and Pacino play off each other well and while their Viagra gag is as old as they are they seem to be having fun with these characters. Pacino, as the guy with no cares in the world, who knows who he is and what his circumstances are pours a great energy into Val that helps us embrace the guy and helps us struggle with that internal conflict that is so bothering Doc. Stevens had to know going into the project though where he would need to go to get the depth he so likely desired out of the situations at hand and he went to the right place with Walken and Pacino as they offer more weight and insight than I expected this farcical film to incorporate.

Doc (Walken) and Alex (Addison Timlin) develop a special bond as waitress and customer.
Stand Up Guys isn't one you will feel the need to rush out to see and there is good reason for that. The film is perfect for that weekend night when you stay in and need something to keep you entertained before you fall into bed. It would probably serve you better in that situation as it does offer a few brief moments of real heartache and pain, of real insight into some of the prices you pay as old age becomes reality. Not to mention, in these guys case, what costs there are when being involved with the mob and how it not only takes over and controls your life but is always lurking just around the corner. This is an average film coated in above average performers and bringing that notch of true experience and integrity to the film makes it feel all the more special, all the more an experience than it would have in lesser hands. There are some nice moments between Walken and his waitress Alex (Addison Timlin) as well as a slew of unnecessary supporting roles that are cast with names like Julianna Marguilies, Lucy Punch, and Vanessa Ferlito. These women aren't given much to do, but that is the case with everything in the film other than its trio of main characters. I knew what I was getting into, I knew what it would come to, I knew how it would come to it, but I still enjoyed watching the film and that speaks for something. Bear the cheap jokes and nasty old men needs and dig into the ride these characters take you on with pleasure. There is not even any kind of performance enhancing drug necessary to make this leave a better impression than it already will.