Director: Fisher Stevens
Cast: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Julianna Margulies, Vanessa Ferlito, Katheryn Winnick, Mark Margolis, Addison Timlin, Lucy Punch, Bill Burr, Rick Gomez, Weronika Rosati
RunTime: 1 hr 35 mins
Rating: NC16 (Coarse Language, Drug Use and Sexual References)
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Official Website: http://www.standupguysfilm.com/
Opening Day: 7 March 2013
Synopsis: A pair of aging con men try to get the old gang back together for one last hurrah before one of the guys takes his last assignment - to kill his comrade.
How much you enjoy ‘Stand Up Guys’ depends on how much you like the trio of veteran actors – Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin. Without them, the film would cease to exist. No offence to actor-turned-director Fisher Stevens and first-time feature film writer Noah Haidle, but neither the former’s directing nor the latter’s writing counts for anything much, so the pleasure of watching their film comes solely and only from the company of these three amigos they have somehow by some stroke of luck managed to assemble.
Each one of them has played a mob-man countless times in many other superior films, but put them together in the same picture and the result is quite something in itself. Without the burden of trying to prove themselves (having already established themselves early on in their career as first-rate actors), Pacino, Walken and Arkin are content to simply kick back and savour the rare delight of playing off one another. That explains the leisurely gait at which the movie unfolds, even though the fact that everything plays out pretty much over the course of one night (and perhaps an early morning) might suggest otherwise.
Then again, the actors aren’t given much of a story – or for that matter, characters – to begin with. The bare bones plot starts with Val’s (Pacino) release from prison 28 years after taking the fall for his partners-in-crime in a shootout – hence the title ‘stand-up guy’. To start off his celebration of debaucherous – booze, good food and women – fun denied him in prison, his best friend Doc (Walken) takes him to the brothel they used to frequent, though not before a stopover at the pharmacy to get some Viagra.
Because he overcompensates, Val lands in hospital, only to meet Nina (Julianna Margulies), the daughter of their old getaway driver Hirsch (Arkin) who is now wasting the last years of his life away in a nursing home. On a whim, they decide to lure him out for a wild night on the town, stealing a luxury car which belongs to some other local gang in the process. Once behind the wheel, Hirsch proves that he can still drive like the old day; not only that, another trip to the same brothel certifies that his other faculties are – let’s just say – still as sturdy.
Where is all that supposed to lead up to? Well, it turns out that Doc has been instructed by a vengeful mob boss (Mark Margolis), whose son was accidentally killed in the shootout Val took the rap for, to kill the latter within 24 hours – so like Doc, everything up till the inevitable confrontation is just trying to buy time. That explains the contrived plot turn which sees them avenging a woman who has apparently been gang raped by the people who own the car they stole – and the quick and fleeting manner by which this show of retribution is over and dealt with suggests a movie that doesn’t quite know where and what to do, so much so that the narrative feels thin and overplotted at the same time.
What pleasures it does offer is at best intermittent, and courtesy of its fine cast. The frequent references to their age – the best being that where both Val and Hirsch express surprise that cars no longer need to be started with a set of jangling keys – are amusing despite being repetitive, and work only because Pacino, Walken and Arkin are such good game. They are also the reason why the movie has its poignant moments, particularly as they reminisce about the days of their lives past and start to question friendship, loyalty and their own mortality.
Indeed, it’s no overstatement to say that the weight of the whole film rests on the able shoulders of Pacino, Walken and to a lesser extent, Arkin. Whereas Pacino plays the reprobate with slack-jawed charm, Walken is quiet, restrained and in his subdued way, unexpectedly moving. They complement each other perfectly, leaving you without a doubt how the finale will play out between them, and lending at least some credence to a clichéd shootout that ends the film on a somewhat unsatisfying note.
It is also yet another reminder how the film’s modest delights are entirely because of its geezer cast. Though Pacino, Walken and Arkin have been in much better films before, ‘Stand Up Guys’ benefits from being the first time that all three of them are in the same movie. That shared experience in itself is reason enough to catch this otherwise insubstantial movie, their affable and engaging presence making the time spent with them in this buddy comedy worthwhile.
(A movie that is worth only as much as its cast – thank goodness then for its three fine Hollywood veterans, Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin)
Review by Gabriel Chong