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Stand Up Guys

2012 | 95 min | R | 2.39:1

Stand Up Guys


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1 user review

Movie appeal




Theatrical release date

 01 February, 2013
 28 June, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Stand Up Guys Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, January 31, 2013

The teaming of Christopher Walken, Al Pacino, and Alan Arkin seems like a can’t-miss proposition, offering the screen legends a premise that allows for light comedy and heavy emotion, making the most out of this rare moviemaking event. And yet “Stand Up Guys” is the opposite of inspiring, wasting the talent on a dreary collection of random adventures and unimaginative tomfoolery, hoping the sheer radiation of ability is enough to fog the fact that the script never decides what it really wants to be. Mostly baffling with a handful of bright moments, “Stand Up Guys” is a bust that doesn’t know when to quit. In fact, it doesn’t really know when to start either.

Nurturing a friendship forged in criminal pursuits during the 1970s, Doc (Christopher Walken) is excited to see buddy Val (Al Pacino) released from prison after 28 years. Now senior citizens, the pair return to old haunts to get reacquainted, with Val surprised to find his former partner a mild man with a penchant for painting sunsets every morning. Realizing this reunion is more than just an exchange of pleasantries, Val learns that Doc has been ordered to kill him by vengeful crime boss Claphands (Mark Margolis) for the accidental shooting of his son. Recognizing the futility of flight, Val organizes a wild night of misadventures to soothe his cooped-up soul, partaking in prostitutes, numerous meals at a local diner, and busting old wheelman Hirsch (Alan Arkin) out of his senior living center, looking to rekindle a bit of the old magic as the trio try to make sense of the missing years.

It’s not that “Stand Up Guys” had to be this regal, profoundly felt odyssey involving the unfinished lives of conflicted men, but the screenplay by Noah Haidle doesn’t make much of an effort to set a consistent tone for the piece, bouncing back and forth between grave revelations and cartoon excursions into the night, finding the crew in a particularly sexual mood. The opening act actually sets the comedic pace of the movie, observing Val work through a bout of impotence with a willing prostitute (Katheryn Winnick, who deserves better than this) by guzzling a bottle of Viagra, giving him a steely erection that eventually refuses to settle down. We’re soon treated to the sight of Pacino walking around with a pitched tent, with Val quickly rushed to the hospital, forced to accept a needle extraction of blood from his penis to help solve his uncomfortable predicament. These are the jokes, folks.

Actually, if “Stand Up Guys” was simply out to share crude antics, I’m sure it would’ve been more tolerable. Instead, Haidle is all over the place with his subplots, finding drama in Doc’s diabolical order to murder his best friend, unearthing weary violence with an aside that finds the trio stumbling across a sexually assaulted woman (Vanessa Ferlito), and triggering laughs with numerous visits to a brothel run by the daughter of an old friend (Lucy Punch). Using the wild night format, “Stand Up Guys” zigzags from scene to scene, using meal times at a local diner as a way to ground the disparate antics in humanity, watching Val and Doc come to terms with the reality of the situation. Unfortunately, there’s little connective tissue to ease transitions between tonal changes, reducing the picture to a series of skits and solemnity director Fisher Stevens doesn’t know what to do with.

While externally appealing, the acting is on the shrill side, with Walken and Pacino stuck doing impressions of themselves, while Arkin is in and out of the picture with alarming speed. It’s troubling to watching the performers flounder, but there’s a certain sense of desperation in the air, finding Pacino especially committed to carrying the loopy detours of the story, Pacinoing like a madman while Stevens stands by without objection. The only true bright spot is found with Addison Timlin, who portrays an especially welcoming diner waitress curious about Doc’s life beyond his regular order of eggs. Warm, inviting, and in possession of the movie’s lone scene of emotional overflow, Timlin is pure charm in a feature that could use a lot more of her.

As the evening passes, anxiety increases for the characters, yet “Stand Up Guys” doesn’t tighten the noose as Val and Doc reach their assassination arrangement. Instead, the effort trails off to a ridiculous non-ending that’s aiming for inspiration, but it’s so sloppily staged, it results in immediate dismissal. Of course, after watching the film open with a hackneyed boner joke, perhaps this lackluster summation of tension was to be expected.

Starring: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Julianna Margulies, Mark Margolis, Lucy Punch
Director: Fisher Stevens

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