Stand Up Guys: A gangster flick for Grandad?
A feature-length directorial debut from Fisher Stevens, Stand Up Guys tells the story of Val (Al Pacino), a former member of a stick-up gang who has just served 28 years in prison for murder. The film begins with Val being collected by his friend and former gang member Doc (Christopher Walken), who seems determined to show his old pal a good time. They play pool, they eat steak, they even go to visit their old favourite haunt – a ‘house of ill repute’ named Wendy’s. It isn’t long before Val begins to realise that his friend has an ulterior motive.
Doc has been sent by Claphands (Mark Margolis), a crime boss who wants Val dead. It turns out that the murder Val was sentenced for was that of Claphands’ only son – an incident Val maintains was an accident that saw his son caught in the crossfire at a botched robbery, one in which Doc was also involved. Doc is charged with the job of killing his friend upon his release, and the entire film sees Doc battling with his conscience over the assignment.
While Doc agonises over his prescribed task, they decide to go and rescue the third member of their gang and trusty getaway driver, Hirsch (Alan Arkin), from his residence at a retirement home.
Arkin’s character injects some much needed life into the proceedings – almost immediately they find themselves in a high-speed chase in a stolen car, before another visit to Wendy’s brothel reveals the seemingly decrepit Hirsch to be something of a love god.
Worth a look?
Stand Up Guys is billed as a ‘crime comedy’ and there are some genuinely funny moments; Val’s visit to the hospital after an overdose of Viagra is one of the laugh-out-loud moments, particularly when the doctor produces a giant needle and advises that the blood needs to be ‘sucked out’ of his penis. Another of the highlights is the comically unsubtle delivery by Pacino of the news of Hirsch’s death to his daughter. In other places though, the film is actually both heart-warming and sad. What you are presented with are three guys who are all painfully aware of the fact that the good times are behind them, as they strive to have one last night of fun together.
Looking at the stellar cast list you could easily assume that this is going to be pretty great movie, but it somehow doesn’t quite deliver. The film lacks any real tempo - particularly in the first 30 minutes - and it isn’t until the Hirsch character comes into play that the film really begins to come to life. Stevens is early in his directorial career and you can’t help but wonder if he might have been a little overawed by the presence of such huge stars as Pacino and Walken.
What Stand Up Guys does do though is create a sense of empathy with its protagonists, struggling to come to terms with an ever-changing world in which they feel they no longer have a part to play. The closing scene gives you a ‘walking off into the sunset’ kind of feeling, which only serves to underline the element of melancholy that runs throughout the film. Like the tagline says, they don’t make ‘em like they used to.
Stand Up Guys is available in stores now