The 400-Word Review: Stand Up Guys

By Sean Collier

February 1, 2013

Is this the zombie movie?

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Crime tropes collide in Stand Up Guys, the lighthearted action flick from journeyman director/producer/actor Fisher Stevens. Valentine, a mid-level crook who got into a bad situation, is just out of a long jail term; he’s picked up by old buddy Doc, allegedly walking the line. But bad news: Doc is under strict orders from kingpin Claphands, who wants Valentine dead within 24 hours.

So it’s a first-day-out movie, a last-day-on-earth movie and a brother-against-brother movie, without ever really embodying any of those well-worn tropes. So why bother? Well, see, our man Valentine is played by one Al Pacino; Doc, by Christopher Walken. And in Stand Up Guys, Al Pacino is really Al Pacino-y, and Christopher Walken is extra Christopher Walken-y. They are essentially playing the “Saturday Night Live” versions of themselves, in an occasionally serious (but firmly playful) setting.

Most of the film, then, is just these two goofing off and behaving badly; about 30 minutes is taken up when Val visits a brothel, finds himself unable to perform, accompanies Doc on a late-night pharmacy break-in to pilfer some Cialis, snorts assorted other medications while waiting for the Cialis to take effect and finally revisits the whorehouse with better results.

Does the plot go somewhere? Eventually, kinda.

Fortunately, it doesn’t need to. Not only are Pacino and Walken hamming at an impressive clip every time the camera rolls, a stunningly strong supporting cast rounds things out. “Breaking Bad” alum Mark Margolis is the head honcho; the increasingly funny Lucy Punch is the brothel’s madam. Death Proof’s Vanessa Ferlito turns up to swing a baseball bat.

Oh, yeah — and the second act belongs mostly to Alan Arkin, as a former associate that the duo spring from a nursing home.

The lack of any originality keeps Stand Up Guys from ever really building much momentum, and on several occasions, our heroes elude capture or calamity in ways that demolish any semblance of credibility.

But if there’s a singular problem with the film, it’s also the movie’s strength: Walken and Pacino are really, really, really over-the-top. To many, this is funny and effortlessly entertaining. But if you’ve seen The Godfather or The Deer Hunter recently, it’s also a look at two performers who’ve decayed from the best actors in America all the way to self-parodying punchlines. That might upset you, and it might not. Either way, it’s hard to ignore.




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