Cast: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Julianna Margulies, Mark Margolis, Addison Timlin, Vanessa Ferlito, Lucy Punch
Running time: 96 mins
The lowdown: Enjoyable crime comedy-drama with the extra hook of seeing three Hollywood OAP all-stars riffing on their personas. Pacino is a career criminal, out of the big house after a 28-year stretch and looking for a night of partying with his one-time partner Walken. Problem is Walken’s been ordered to kill his buddy-in-crime or he’s for the dirt-nap. Arkin adds crotchety fun as their one-time wheel-man, while Julianna Margulies is back in the ER as his nurse daughter. Disposable, but fun thanks to the three game leads.
The full verdict: Stand Up Guys is Al Pacino’s best big screen work since 2002’s Insomnia. Then again, this is not saying much if you peruse his output of the last decade, which reached a nadir with a career trashing turn in Jack and Jill.
But, as Val the little big man delivers a vanity free performance, walking around with a tent pole erection for a portion of the film after popping too much Viagra when failing to perform with a Russian prostitute.
As the wearied Doc, Walken too isn’t afraid to show his age, those hollow eyes sinking ever deeper into a wrinkled, but still famous and fascinating visage.
Stand Up Guys then is a film where the wrinkles are some of the best lines. And Pacino, Walken and Arkin all deliver trademark tics; Pacino’s hunched shoulders and wide eyes, Walken’s whisper-growl delivery and Arkin’s bemused pensioner are all on show.
There’s a cosy familiarity to the plot too, the basic idea lifted from 70s classic The Last Detail. The one-wild-night story has previously been done in Go and After Hours amongst others. Mark Margolis’ mob boss wants Val dead largely for the same reason as Walken’s own crime lord in Things to Do In Denver When You’re Dead. And Pacino gets to slow-dance a young slip of a girl while death approaches in an echo of Scent of a Woman.
But, while moving in fits and starts, the script has pockets of pure enjoyment, including a final joyride for the three old-timers and a blaze of glory finale that’s no surprise but nicely executed.
In such a boy’s movie, it’s no surprise the girl’s get a raw deal. The team’s revenge on a gang who sexually assaulted a girl they find in a trunk of a car (played by Death Proof’s Ferlito) is mishandled as a crowd pleasing set-piece and Julianna Marguiles is wasted as Arkin’s daughter. Brit comedian Punch manages to inject some humanity into her brothel madam, but the only actress allowed to shine is Timlin, as a waitress in Doc’s favourite diner.
What elevates Stand Up Guys are the quieter moments when Val reflects on his 28-year stretch, the severity of the term a result of him refusing to rat out his crew. Here the brooding anger and darkness of Michael Corleone can be glimpsed, reminding us that this is one of cinema’s very best performers.
No classic, but it wouldn’t be a crime to check it out.