Blu-ray Review: Stand Up Guys

Over the years we tend to discount Al Pacino and Christopher Walken’s acting abilities because of how many preposterously bad films they’ve been in. For all the good work they’ve done over the years, including a pair of Oscar wins and a plethora of nominations combined, the two have combined with Robert De Niro to accentuate the ability of name actors to cash large paychecks for lousy work.

We tend to overlook Pacino’s great work as an older actor on the indie scene for his inability to turn dow clunkers like Jack & Jill where the stench of Adam Sandler’s usual level of production allows Pacino to redefine the phrase “mailing it in” on a whole other level. So it’s something to behold when Pacino and Walken combine for something that’s merely bad, mainly because they actually try in Stand Up Guys.

It’s a simple premise. Val (Pacino) has served nearly 30 years in prison, taking the fall for a crime he committed on behalf of his crew. His best friend Doc (Walken) has been ordered to kill him up by sun up of the next day after by their boss (Mark Margolis), who holds a significant grudge against Val for the same crime. Until then Doc and Val, who both know of their situation, decide to spend one last night before the inevitable has to happen. Joined by their old friend Hirsch (Alan Arkin), the duo spend one last night as Val deals with the newfound world around him.

Stand Up Guys is built around the premise of these two friends spending one last night together with a fish out of water scenario, as Val is an old man who spent his best years in prison, and it has surprisingly effective moments built around the inherent dramatic nature to this. Pacino and Walker have an easy chemistry together and it makes the film work; they’re a pair of old men whose best days are behind them, riding out the final moments of forgettable lives as low level criminals. And both are giving in fairly reasonable performances as well; this isn’t anywhere near the top of the threshold for either man but it’s perfectly acceptable work. This isn’t acting reel quality but it’s not laughable or embarrassing either.

Unfortunately this film isn’t capable of keeping up with them, even after their peak.

It’s a pedestrian script and solid, but unspectacularly directed and with two older characters actors in it would feel a bit better than with Walken and Pacino. With the two of them in the lead roles the film’s flaws are much more enhanced; this is a film that probably would’ve felt better if there wasn’t the talent level trying to prop this film up from mediocrity in it. There’s something to be mined here about the nature of friendship, and of the old time code of honor among thieves, which the film is trying to get at but just quite can’t. There are too many moments of failed comedy and too many ventures off into plot points that don’t add anything to the film’s overall story arc; this feels like an incomplete work at best or a film designed to go directly to video but somehow managing to hit theatres in spite of its cast (and not because of it).

Stand Up Guys becomes frustrating in that regard; there’s so much potential good that isn’t acted on, and so much bad that is, that a great film is somehow brewing in all of this. As it is it winds up being mediocre, which is a shame.

Extras include American Muscle: The Stand Up Stunt Driving Scenes featurettes, The Lowdown On Making Stand Up Guys featurettes, The Stand Up Songs Of Jon Bon Jovi featurettes, Deleted Scenes and Audio Commentary with Director Fisher Stevens. None of them are beyond EPK style pieces.

Lionsgate presents Stand Up Guys. Directed by: Fisher Stevens. Written by: Noah Haidle. Starring: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Julianna Margulies, Mark Margolis, Lucy Punch. Running time: 95 minutes. Rated R. Released: May 21, 2013. Available at

Tags: , ,