[Review] – Stand Up Guys

19 Dec

Stand Up Guys

Title: Stand Up Guys
Year: 2012
Director: Fisher Stevens
Writer: Noah Haidle
Starring: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Julianna Margulies, Mark Margolis, Lucy Punch
MPAA Rating: R, language, sexual content, violence and brief drug use
Runtime: 94 min
IMDb Rating: 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 46%
Metacritic: 41

Right, so, as you may have gathered over the past few years, movies starring older actors tailored for their contemporaries have been doing some real solid business. From The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to Red (both of which have sequels already in development) there seems to be a nice niche for movies starring older actors and targeted to older audiences. As a result we now have Stand Up Guys, a crime comedy starring a trio of acting greats that will be properly released early in 2013, so we’ll only know how this one does on the business side then, but that’s getting limited run now.

The film, once set to be directed by Barry Levinson but now being delivered by Fisher Stevens (who’s probably best known as an actor on TV shows like Early Edition and Lost but who also directs and produces, having actually won an Oscar for producing The Cove), stars Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin, a trio of Oscar winners who are all in their 70’s (Mr. Walken actually turns 70 in March, but you get the point). Now, the film is actually quite fun and all, but a part of me got the same feeling watching this as I did when I saw The Bucket List: if you have actors as tremendously talented as these guys together you should make a real movie, not a disposable comedy.

Mr. Pacino plays Val, a guy just released from prison after having served nearly three decades for not giving up one of his criminal partners. When he gets out his best friend, Doc, the character Mr. Walken plays, picks him up and soon enough they’re teaming up with another of their old friends, Hirsch, played by Mr. Arkin, reminiscing about the old days and what it meant to them. Then you realize that something’s going on and that there are secrets involved and that those glory days haven’t really been left behind all that much.

I’m not going to say this is a great movie, it’s not even close, and I stand firmly by what I say that anytime you have actors like these together you have to give them great material and not something as silly as inconsequential as this. And even though most of the time Stand Up Guys isn’t really all that funny, delivering an expected conclusion and jokes that are also terribly predictable, including the seemingly mandatory gag about viagra, I thought the performances were quite good, and maybe enough to warrant a slight recommendation from me; it just seems to me that there’s a genuinely good movie somewhere in here.

Then again, maybe these three guys didn’t team up to make some real dramatic piece with genuine gravitas and pathos because they just didn’t want to. And, if that’s the case, who could blame them? These are actors who have nothing left to prove to anyone and maybe they just wanted to enjoy themselves hanging out for a few weeks with each other and cashing in a paycheck at the end. Even so there are times, mostly in the scenes in which they simply act alongside each other without much hubbub interrupting them, in which the joy of seeing them feed off each other is tremendous, just seeing a trio of acting legends embed these terribly shallow characters with a depth and poignance that was eons away from actually being thought up by the director or writer.

That’s pretty much why I’m giving this one a pass, because it’s still a good thing to have these three duking it out and having fun and doing their thing. Mr. Pacino especially; here’s a guy who we’ve been giving a hard time of late for just phoning it in and being manic and chewing scenery in his most recent films and here he does the same and yet he seems to be having so much fun that we roll with it. He’s been in the joint for 28 years for being a “stand up guy” for not ratting out his friends, now he just wants to have one awesome night about town. It kind of translates to these actors careers: they’ve given us indelible performances for decades and now they just want to have fun.

At first it’s just Mr. Pacino and Mr. Walken and they want to go out and drink and have fun with the ladies except Val finds out he can’t have fun with the ladies anymore which means he goes for the little blue helping pills which then go ahead and land him in the hospital. There they realize that one of the nurses, played by Julianna Margulies, is actually the daughter of Hirsch so they get him out of a nursing home while he’s still in his pj’s and as soon as he’s behind the wheel of a car he becomes a getaway driver all over again.

The secret I talked about before is the fact that Doc has actually been ordered by a mob boss to kill Val within a day of his release and Doc seems to have no alternative. That brings forth the question of honor that’s really all this film is about. Val was an honorable guy taking the fall for a crime that killed the son of said mob boss; Doc has been ordered to kill his best friend, and it’s about whether he’ll go on with it or whether he’ll be a stand up guy himself, sacrifice himself and decline.

As you can see from that, this is a film that tries to get some good ol’ pathos in there with these good ol’ guys trying to have a good ol’ time. It’s a film that you know really loves its characters, a bunch of bad guys you just have to root for and as an audience you’re tempted to do the same because you love these actors, maybe you don’t necessarily love them in these roles, but you’ve loved them in countless others so they get your vote of confidence. That’s why I’m giving this one a recommending grade, because they singlehandedly make this movie so much better than it ever had any right to be.

Grade: B-


One Response to “[Review] – Stand Up Guys”

  1. colincarman December 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    What a picture! Ha. Fisher Stevens, a dir. now, interesting. Write on!

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