jason stives looks at some grumpy old gangsters….
Probably more so than most people I try to find a way of defending many aging Hollywood legends as my recent review of The Last Stand showed. The over the hill mentality that usually eclipses any actor over the age of 50 isn’t a fare assessment of someone’s craft that doesn’t really go away but is buried because of poor role choices. The three leads of Stand Up Guys, the new crime comedy from director Fisher Stevens on paper seems unflappably feasible based on the caliber of the cast. However, the film suffers from an unbearable mix of slap stick geriatric humor and too many pressing plot points that are never fully realized.
After being released from prison after 28 years, Val (Al Pacino) is ready to resume his care free lifestyle now reunited with his best friend Doc (Christopher Walken). While they get to enjoy the fruits of thinking they are still young including rescuing a long time colleague from a rest home (Alan Arkin) Val soon learns that his release comes with a price. An aging mobster with a vendetta against him has instructed Doc to kill his best friend but neither man is going to take this dilemma lying down.
There isn’t really much to delve into but let’s look at our three leads for a second. Of the three, Pacino has suffered the most in his formidable acting years by spending the last decade in a constant gaze of playing his Scent of a Woman persona on repeat but there is no doubting something is still there. Walken has been able to maintain a constant presence in Hollywood still turning out the occasional stand out performance like he did in this past fall’s Seven Psychopaths as well as becoming a juggernaut in the internet meme world. Arkin, on the other hand, has benefited the most in the latter part of his career appearing in a variety of roles that have garnered him two Oscar nominations, one of which he won.
So the pedigree is laid out right at the marquee but despite showing some obvious on screen chemistry we have nothing to work with. It might be the borage of old man jokes that fly left and right. After seeing the “We Are Young” parody in a Taco Bell commercial during the Super Bowl, the jokes and actions of our three leads feel exactly like that dismal commercial. They try to win over younger women, they need Viagra to have sex, and steal a car. It feels like a complete smack in the face to these actors and does nothing but enforce what some people already feel about actors in the golden twilight of their careers. Plus the plot of a mob boss still angry at Val after almost thirty years for the death of his son seems ridiculous and really halts the film from having any real substance because it’s just plain stupid.
There is a glimmer of hope in Doc’s interactions with Alex, the waitress at the diner he goes to every morning because Walken despite a sometimes tough exterior is good at showing heart, I mean, look at his performance in Catch Me if You Can if you think otherwise. It’s moving at times and even I found myself a bit warmed by this but it doesn’t help an already failing story that covers everything from rape to drug use. Arkin’s character of Richard acts as the median to the past their prime antics of Val and Doc and is at least given a reason to think his best days are behind him as a long time widower. This allows Val and Doc’s stories to cross leading to a rather listless climax that anyone could see coming and most likely yawned about as they headed towards the exit.
Much like movies like Tough Guys and The Crew, Stand Up Guys shows that the aging gangster/mobster film is still very hokey and uninteresting. While we are given some solid casting choices it’s a paycheck film that really holds no interest beyond some early laughs. Maybe if the film’s title insinuated a group of aging stand up comedians than maybe more care would have been put into the humor rather than being 90 minutes of someone asking me to pull their finger.
Rating: 4.5 out of 10 (bad)