The ‘Guys’ make ‘Stand Up’ worth a look — sort of
Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin star in "Stand Up Guys."
Updated: March 1, 2013 7:31PM
‘Stand Up Guys’
The best thing about “Stand Up Guys” is the thing that probably makes you want to see it in the first place: the actors.
Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin as retirement-age tough guys out for one last hurrah. All three are Oscar winners with illustrious careers going back four or five decades, but this is the first time they’ve appeared in the same film together — and that’s the only thing that makes this otherwise ho-hum tragic-comic crime drama worthwhile.
Walken and Pacino lend far more substance than the script deserves to the roles of Doc and Val, respectively — though Pacino’s manic energy also has the effect of making Val come across as an annoying whack job at times.
We first meet Doc as he’s going through his daily routine before dressing up to visit his best friend Val, who he hasn’t seen in 28 years. Val took the rap for a shootout in a heist gone wrong and served the whole term because he refused to implicate Doc or anyone else. Doc looks like he’s dressed for “the gin rummy championship of the world,” to quote Val, but Val looks worse. His head sticks out like a turtle’s, his goatee is gray and scraggly and his eyes suggest he’s been drinking way too much mouthwash, as he does later at Doc’s apartment.
A situation that might have settled into an “Odd Couple” scenario with two senescent armed-robbers living off their social security checks takes a more interesting turn when we realize that Doc is waiting for the right moment to give his old friend two in the head — ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom. It seems that the son of a similarly elderly mob boss named Claphands (Mark Margolis) was killed in the same shootout that sent Val to prison. Claphands has given Doc 24 hours to kill Val or be killed with him.
Doc treats Val to one last big night involving their favorite brothel from the old days, giving rise to the film’s first set of Viagra jokes. Then a pharmacy break-in for some more Viagra jokes, then a trip to the emergency room for even more.
At some point in between, Val asks Doc to drop the welcome-home act and tell him he’s the guy Claphands has chosen to do his dirty work. When Doc admits it, Val nods philosophically and then proposes one last wild night together before they have to say goodbye. And that’s when things start to become more interesting and, simultaneously, more ridiculous — with a couple of unfortunate sentimental detours along the way.
On the more fortunate side, they spring their friend and former getaway driver Hirsch (Arkin) from his nursing home for quick high-speed chase with the cops, just for funsies, in the sports car they’ve stolen from a couple of degenerate thugs. There’s also a chivalrous decision to avenge the naked girl they find tied in the car’s trunk. Walken and Pacino and Arkin aren’t together for long, but while they are, “Stand Up Guys” works just fine, despite the extremely unlikely places the script takes them.
Walken and Pacino work very nicely together as well, though it’s a bit hard to swallow when Doc and Val fairly routinely beat up bad guys one-third their age. No matter how absurd things get, though, the veteran actors make it work. You can see old age starts to drop away from the old partners in crime as the night progresses and their confidence grows, Until, finally, they’re ready for the full-tilt, guns-blazing finale that plays like the final scenes of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and ends with similar ambiguity.
That’s the big moment the whole movie builds toward and, absurd as it may be, it’s the one that feels most right. Social Security? Who needs Social Security when you’ve got a sharp new suit and a couple of big semi-automatic handguns?