‘Stand Up Guys’. A fun and quirky journey with some great actors.

Stand Up GuysStand Up Guys is a gangster movie—what a surprise! A rather good and modest one, that offers great performances, some good laughs and very few surprises. When you team up three actors like Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin it probably comes as no shock to hear that it is also quirky and more than slightly eccentric. The movie is directed by actor Fisher Stevens and above all it is a movie that is all about the performances.

I would watch Al Pacino in a movie no matter how bad it is— in fact I have! In ‘Stand Up Guys,’ Pacino plays the part of Val and is a delight as a harder than nails criminal who has just been released from a 28 year prison sentence. From the moment he is greeted at the prison gate by his former colleague you know it is not going to be smooth sailing in the relationship between him and Doc, played in his inimitable style by Walken. No spoiler alert here. Actually there are no great surprises anywhere in Noah Haidle’s screenplay, but some great chances to explore the fully formed personalities that the movie’s stars bring to the table. The movie goes pretty much where you think it is going and enjoys the journey getting there.

Pacino has two modes of acting, full on and over the top, and even fuller on and more over the top. In this movie he gives us a welcome opportunity to catch a glimpse of what some of his earlier screen creations might have been like if they had made it to become senior citizens. Not mellow and definitely still ‘full on and over the top.’ You get to watch Walken and Pacino come to terms with the fact that after 28 years  separated, they are each others only real friends. They are predictably unexcited and embarrassed by the hint of emotion that this causes them. 

Just when you are getting comfortable with the interaction between Val and Doc the movie gets a fresh wave of Pacino, Walken & Arkinexcitement when they are united with Hirsch, a former mob driver. Hirsch is brought to life impressively by Alan Arkin who adds a synergistic blast of energy to the proceedings. None of the actors let you forget the fact that these are tough and violent men. We just get the benefit of enjoying some of the lighter moments that their relationship offers. I’m not sure we ever needed to know quite so much about aging mobsters sex lives but what the heck.

I suppose there are other actors in the movie, but when all is said and done, it is really only the relationship between the three leads that fuels the story. All the other actors are certainly strong enough for the fairly basic roles that they fill in the storyline but their parts are purposely underwritten. The whole movie is a low key and enjoyable meditation on some very basic After Hourselements of the gangster genre. There is more than a little of ‘The Expendables Go Mobster’ in this production, however spending 90 minutes in the company of these three stand up guys is a lesson in acting that I found really enjoyed. I can’t summon up the same enthusiasm for ‘The Expendibles,’ and can’t help feeling that some of them shouldn’t ‘Have Been Baaaack!’

This movie has received some fairly scathing reviews and I am a little lost to know why. From the moment it begins you understand the territory you are entering and what to expect from your tour guides. Three great performances, and 90 minutes that was never less than enjoyable— this was just fine by me! The movie pleasantly reminded me of Scorsese’s highly underrated 1985 movie ‘After Hours,’ as it chronicles an odyssey through an absurdly never ending urban night. In fact if you haven’t seen it recently you should screen Scorsese’s minor gem as part of a double bill with ‘Stand Up Guys,’ they won’t change your life but they should entertain the heck out of you.

~ by Nick Lewin on February 3, 2013.

2 Responses to “‘Stand Up Guys’. A fun and quirky journey with some great actors.”

  1. Good review. Arkin, Pacino, and Walken do what they can, but the script just really lets them down and has them come off like they’ve been sleeping the whole time.

    • I really can’t disagree that the script (and direction!) were pretty unexciting, but I still enjoyed the movie’s performances. It has been sad to see the quality of some of Pacino’s recent movies……
      I did think some of the reviews were REALLY hostile!

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