Once was a time when having Al Pacino and Christopher Walken on the poster, as Stand Up Guys can boast, would have been the guarantee of box office plenty and probably an armful of gongs come awards season.
But time passes. Neither actor, now shadows of the men that once bestrode the big screens, couldn’t prevent this affectionate buddy flick sinking without trace at the cinema. Although it won’t go down as any more than footnotes in their respective careers, it may get a second life on DVD.
Val (Pacino) is released from jail after serving 28 years. He’s met at the gate by his friend Doc (Walken), who is the bearer of bad news. The local mob boss wants Val dead. To compound matters, Doc is the man tasked with the job, and he has until morning to get it done.
Val, being resigned to getting whacked by someone, just wants a night out and so the two old wiseguys set off to a whorehouse, back to the whorehouse after breaking into a chemists for Viagra, steal a car to rescue their old comrade-in-arms Hirsch (Alan Arkin) from a retirement home, rescue a damsel in distress, go back to the whorehouse again and basically have a riotous time as they delay the inevitable.
Pacino and Walken riff off each other with the confidence you’d expect, although they are both upstaged when Arkin brings his bone-dry acerbic style to the screen, stealing one of the best jokes from Office Space along the way.
Writer Noah Haidle, for whom this is a first big-screen credit, has clearly done his research and crated a lively script for the main players to work with.
A bit leaden-footed it may be (it’s also a first outing for director Fisher Stevens, who played George Minkowski in Lost), but there’s no little charm seeing the three main men bounce back and forth.
There are echoes of roles past – Pacino, of course, needs no prompts to pull off a gangster; Val is like an older version of the foot soldier he played in Donnie Brasco. Walken is as lugubrious as ever, channeling True Romance‘s Vincenzo. Arkin just does his thing. He seldom changes the schtick, and nor should he.
A bit like sitting in a well-worn couch, Stand Up Guys is comfortable, pleasingly familiar and doesn’t present any challenges.