In Stand Up Guys, we’re introduced to Val (Al Pacino), a newly-paroled convict out of jail after serving 28 years for involvement in a botched heist. Val is met by his old partner in crime, Doc (Christopher Walken), at the prison gate, and the two quickly embark on a one-night adventure that is two parts Grumpy Old Men, one part Reservoir Dogs, and four parts Let’s Take All the Cleverness Out of Both of Those Movies and Replace it With a Bunch of Contrived Viagra Jokes and a Barely Fleshed-Out Villain in the Background Who is Less ‘Vengeful Mobster’ and More ‘Dr. Claw From Inspector Gadget’. We learn early on that Val’s night out is more a last hurrah than anything else, as Doc has orders from a vague thug named “Claphands” to kill his friend at 10 am the following morning. Val went to jail, you see, for killing Claphands’ son in the aforementioned heist (we can only assume the son’s name was “Sayyeah”).The audience is thus half-willingly dragged along for the ride as Val and Doc steal prescription drugs from a pharmacy with about as much security as a kindergarten, fail at picking up on women half their age, make off with a supposedly notorious and intimidating (yet strangely incompetent) gang of thugs’ muscle car, and spring the third man in their old team (Alan Arkin) from a nursing home.
One would think that placing Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin on screen together would align the planets, possibly even kick Earth into some sort of super-orbit that rearranges the fabric of spacetime itself, and somehow turn our sun from a burning ball of plasma into a gigantic mountain of cocaine and dancing prostitutes from the 1970s. This was my hope as I excitedly told the guy behind the concessions stand to “put enough cheese on those nachos to make my arteries take out a restraining order against me, this movie is going to require nothing less”. Sadly, my expectations were shot down about five minutes in. The “tough guys doin’ tough guy stuff except now they’re totally old! Ha ha!” plot is predictable, the lines cliché, and the supporting characters are about as well-formed as that ash tray you made in art class when you were seven (and were probably thrown into the script only after somebody said, “Oh…hey, someone else should probably talk here”). Claphands resurfaces occasionally to remind us that he’s still somehow a threat despite being roughly the protagonists’ age and employing henchmen that Walken could knock unconscious with a sneeze.
Cringeworthy elements aside, Stand Up Guys does have a few good ingredients in the mix that at least make you a little less angry about spending what could have been your beer money for the week on a ticket. The onscreen chemistry between the three veteran actors is deliciously fun to watch. Arkin, Pacino, and Walken all have that special knack of chewing up completely predictable and ill-written lines and spitting out something watchable, even fairly fun. Lucy Punch’s almost David Lynchian acting as Wendy, owner of the brothel the guys pay a visit to after nearly three decades, is also a bright (and weird) spot. It also has Al Pacino and guns. Every movie should feature Al Pacino and guns.
All in all, Stand Up Guys certainly isn’t cinematic gold. It’s probably not even cinematic aquarium rocks with yellow sharpie scribbled on. My advice for proper enjoyment of this movie is to find a nice matinee showing, drink about three beers beforehand, sneak another three past the concessions stand, and get so incredibly drunk during your viewing that by the end you have absolutely no idea where you are but have fuzzy memories of Al Pacino having erectile problems and Christopher Walken shooting stuff. And please be sure to apologize to the people sitting near you for attempting to bare-knuckle brawl the screen for allowing this to be projected onto itself for 90 minutes.
"Stand Up Guys" opens February 1, 2013 and is rated R. Comedy, Crime. Directed by Fisher Stevens. Written by Noah Haidle.