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Stand Up Guys stars Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin, the only three reasons necessary to see this movie. Add in some fast cars, handguns, and a chemically-induced boner and the entertainment qualities of this film successfully deliver old-guy fun, dotage style.Peter Travers of Rolling Stone writes, “Some actors don’t need top-shelf material. Just the pleasure of their company is enough. And so Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin turn the insubstantial Stand Up Guys into solid entertainment.”
After serving a 28-year prison sentence for withholding information about his criminal associates, Val (Pacino) reunites with Doc (Walken) to rekindle their old partnership and to give Val a taste of life on the outside and his newly acquired freedom. Naturally, this brings them to a whore house, but in his old age Val finds it more difficult than he expected to participate. The obvious solution is to break into a pharmacy and take as many drugs as possible, and return to his lady friends with the declaration, “I’m fighting the Battle of the Bulge here. This thing is going up and down like a yo-yo.”
Val and Doc’s next move is to spring their friend, Hirsch (Arkin), from his retirement home. The three old friends reflect on the glory days of heists and jobs they used to pull, discussing the nature of loyalty, friendship, and freedom. But, as expected when people get back together after so many years, there is an unspoken tension lingering in the air, one that could pit friend against friend and cost someone his life.
All three of the leads give fun and enjoyable performances, which is an expected minimum from actors with their reputation and standing within Hollywood. Unfortunately, they have to struggle thoroughly with a difficult script that, despite having its moments of transparency and philosophical ingenuity, often fails to offer justice to its talented leads.
The film’s shortcomings also rest on the shoulders of Director Fisher Stevens. The predictability of the overall plot becomes apparent shortly after the movie gets rolling, and the audience is barely challenged to do any amount of digging to comprehend what is taking place. This, coupled with unfortunately inconsistent themes and tones, and the talent of Pacino, Walken, and Arkin cannot possibly be enough to raise the qualities lacking in Stand Up Guys.
Tom Long of the Detroit News accurately writes, “Is it fun? Sure, some of the time. Is it good? That’s a stretch. Does it tap the potential of these three actors? Fuggedaboutit.”