Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

Stand Up Guys

Stand Up Guys
Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Mark Margolis and Alan Arkin

Rated: R for language, sexual content, violence and brief drug use.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: February 1, 2013 Released by: Lions Gate Films

Three laudable veterans like Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and  Alan Arkin help make this geriatric mobster flick seem like less midwinter swill than it really is. The combination of weariness and élan and their chemistry as "bad boys" in Fisher Stevens' lamely loose Stand Up Guys enter in a more adult, mischievous Bucket List way.

The just out of prison Val (Pacino of Jack and Jill and much earlier Scarface) is greeted by old retired friend Doc (Walken of a pretty well-crafted Seven Psychopaths) and not delighted by Doc's modest living arrangement.

A scheming Val as Pacino etches out a wild womanizer a little bugged out as he was in the interminable 88 Minutes needs Doc to embrace his former criminal ways. The caveat for Doc is that he's at the mercy of vengeful crime lord Claphands (Mark Margolis) who needs him to take out Val who saved his bacon some time ago. These old pros need their old ailing getaway driver Hirsch (Arkin, nominated for Ben Affleck's formidable fact-based drama, Argo) to tickle their fancies for as long as they can.

A problematic narrative from Noah Haidle and Stevens' slapdash direction doesn't do much for the comedy and action which have a crude, languishing quality about many of them. With the silly, wacky, even vicious situations these guys endure to realize their new caper calling, it somehow generates an easygoing, freewheeling aura. It's clear there's still chutzpah here through the madcap machinations.

Pacino's scenery-chewing is countered by the more grounded, deadpan Walken, and Arkin wisely works from his usual droll, sentient roles (even going back to The In-Laws with Peter Falk). Together, a kind of spry wit is coalesced that probably makes them more empathetic than the screenplay makes them out to be. It's not about the set-pieces or the gags related to aging which probably are passe to try and connect with a somewhat larger demographic.

The production imparts a benign, bluesy feel as the dramatic impact seems to weigh most on Pacino than his costars, especially Walken, in a humble straight-man part. To provide some cinematic zest, though, they have to relinquish much of their dignity in a jokey, emotional Stand Up that even disrespects much of its distaff side filled out in roles by Addison Timlin, Lucy Punch, and even Julianna Margulies (see TV's The Good Wife and her voluble, jealous wife in City Island) as Hirsch's nurse daughter.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Stand Up Guys     C+   C                     C+ 

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