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Movie Review: Stand Up Guys

February 1, 2013
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So many actors, so little interest.

Stand Up Guys follows a day in the life of aging mobsters Val (Al Pacino) and Doc (Christopher Walken), specifically the day after Val’s released from a 28-year stint in prison. Val’s eager to catch up on all the vices he’s been deprived of for the past nigh-30 years while Doc has until 10:00 am the next day to kill him. Add to that the inclusion of their old driver Richard (Alan Arkin), and you pretty much have the movie right there.

The idea is that much of the humor comes from the fact that they’re older guys living it up like the old days (which they note roughly several thousand times), but their conversations and adventures are so one-note and cliched that the old days must have been exceedingly dull. For example, the first 20 minutes has Val and Doc hitting up a bar. Val hits on a group of college girls and one of them throws a drink in his face. Fair enough reaction. He goes back to the bar, Doc says they should go, Val says they can’t now, and he returns to the girls to apologize, asking one of them to dance. Really? We’re supposed to believe this is the same guy who a minute ago tried to sleaze his way into their pants, and now he’s supposed to be sweet and sentimental? Five minutes later he’s snorting Doc’s heart medicine on the bar.

The dance sequence is just there to make Val look like a, well, stand-up guy, but it’s a hard sell. If he’s having trouble adjusting to a different world, maybe it’d be convincing, but there’s no indication of that anywhere else. He eases back into the mobster life almost immediately, so the whole speech he gives to the girls comes off as a screenwriting exercise where the writer wanted to see if he could put his character into an impossible situation and then come out on top. Well, since he’s writing the scene, of course Val can come out on top.

When they pick up Alan Arkin, there’s a bit of dialogue about new-fangled cars, which leads to a lackluster chase in which he eludes two police cars by performing the Rockford Spin. And after that, the cops just give up. I’m fairly certain police don’t actually do this. “Whoa! That guy sure got us! He’s earned his freedom!”

They hit up a brothel, and we’re led to believe that Al Pacino can make a woman climax four times in ten minutes, or that the madam (Lucy Punch) is more than willing to partake in a  three-way with Alan Arkn, or that the screenplay can sneak the same ménage à trois joke Seinfeld made 20 years ago under our noses. And while I’m not up to seeing either Pacino or Arkin making love, seeing them interact with the girls would be interesting — anything would be interesting for that matter. The way the scene plays, it’s just them going to a brothel. Then we see Doc in the waiting room. Then they leave. Is there a point?

There’s some other hijinx, but nothing deserving of mention. Val has a predilection for shooting people in the foot, which is funny, but that’s it. This is the movie that coasts — the actors, all three of them excellent, coast through their lines; the screenplay coasts on its premise; and Fisher Stevens’ direction adds nothing distinctive. Every aspect of the film is interchangeable, and it’s too, too bad, as there seemed to be some potential. Instead, we get a rehash of The Crew. Remember that movie? Nope? Well, there you go.

Stand Up Guys is rated R. Directed by Fisher Stevens. Written by Noah Haidle. Starring Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Lucy Punch, Julianna Margulies, Mark Margolis, Katheryn Winnick, Vanessa Ferlito, and Addison Timlin.

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