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Stand Up Guys (2013)

July 6, 2013

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written by: Noah Haidle

produced by: Sidney Kimmel, Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi & Jim Tauber

directed by: Fisher Stevens

rated: R (for language, sexual content, violence and brief drug use) 

runtime: 95 min.

U.S. release date: February 1, 2013

DVD/Blu-ray release date: May 21, 2013

 

Oh, how the time flies. Think back to movies of the late 1960s and into the 1970s — a huge turning point in film history — and think of all the actors who became huge stars during that stretch. Well, it’s been over 30 years since that period, as many as 40 depending on the film/star, and those actors are now in their 60s, 70s and even 80s. Screen icons can’t age, can they? If not leading men anymore in huge blockbusters, there’s certainly roles out there for actors of such high-caliber, like 2013’s “Stand ?Up Guys”.

Released from prison after serving a 28-year sentence, an aging man named Val (Al Pacino) is met on his parole day by old friend and partner Doc (Christopher Walken). Having spent so much time away from any normal sort of life, Val wants to make up for lost time, drinking, partying, even visiting a brothel, but Doc isn’t telling him anything at first. Val of course knows what awaits him…he must answer for the crime that put him away in prison for such a long sentence, even if the crime wasn’t his fault. Doc has orders from a small-time aging mobster (Mark Margolis) to kill Val, and he’s only got a few hours to do it. Old friends though, Doc is no rush to dispatch his friend, thinking he can at least give him a few hours more. They find another old friend, Hirsch (Alan Arkin), now wasting away in a nursing home, the intention to live up their last few hours together.

 

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If you’re a movie fan and can’t figure out the appeal here, well….how can’t you? In Pacino, Walken and Arkin, you’ve got three living legends from one of the most interesting periods in Hollywood history. One or two of them working together in a movie would be enough, but all three? Sign me up. From Chicago director/actor Fisher Stevens, ‘Guys’ is a solid comedy-drama with a familiar crook/mob background. It has touches of a film noir — the story taking place almost entirely at night and all its shadows — with an unnamed city serving as the backdrop. It’s not an action-packed shoot-out, instead a movie content to be a good story that relies heavily on the star power to carry the heaviest load. There’s some pretty low-brow humor with some Viagra jokes and multiple trips to a brothel that aren’t necessary, but as a whole, the movie is solid.

If you have made it to the fourth paragraph of this review, I’m guessing it’s because you’re a fan of either one or all of Pacino, Walken and Arkin. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff, nothing you haven’t seen before if you’re a fan of crime or mob movies, but in their capable hands it feels worthwhile throughout. Pacino’s Val is the showiest of the parts, a crook who did time rather than give up his accomplices in a previous crime. He knows his time is up, just doesn’t know for sure who will do the deed. Walken as Doc is perfect, understated and gentlemanly because he’s had years to prep for this unpleasant task. He’s tired, world-weary and dreads what awaits. Arkin’s is the smallest part as Hirsch, the former getaway driver of the trio.

 

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There is an effortless chemistry and charm to their scenes. An important aspect of the story is in the title. Stand up guys are those who do what the job dictates regardless of the unpleasant consequences. They do it because it’s the job. Men do their jobs. As the story develops we see this code of honor among crooks. We learn more about Val, Doc and Hirsch’s past, about their younger years when they were a team of low-level but highly effective mob crooks and henchmen. Their scenes among the group talking about the good old days offer some of the movie’s high points. It works because these guys are so talented, so good at what they do. As Val’s time runs out, Doc must decide what he’s going to do. Kill one of his only friends? Don’t kill him and risk his own life in the process? It additionally works because it’s easy to imagine these three actors making a prequel in the early 1970s, starring as themselves.

Following the trio around, we meet a handful of characters in their misadventures. Julianna Margulies plays Nina, Hirsch’s daughter who works as a nurse at a hospital Val and Doc visit. Ooohhh, “ER” reference! Margolis is his typical intimidating self as Claphands, a ridiculously vengeful mobster with Bill Burr as one of his ineffective henchmen. Lucy Punch (“Dinner for Schmucks”) is memorable as Wendy, the nerdy-looking owner of the brothel they visit while  Addison Timlin is Alex, a waitress at an all-night diner who has befriended Doc over the years. Vanessa Ferlito has a good, if odd, part as Sylvia, a beaten-up and raped woman who the trio rescues and helps exact revenge.

So how then should one end a movie like this? That is where the film struggles to find its footing. It has the right idea with a perfect scene that provides the ideal ending for these characters. It’s what they deserve. It’s what they should do……and then Stevens has the camera pull away so we don’t actually see the ending. There’s no resolution, too many things left hanging up in the air. For me, this ending feels a little too smarmy, a little condescending, too self-assured. The idea is right, and the thought is there but this is an ending that needed more closure. I still liked the movie on the whole, but the ending could have been significantly better. Still worth watching. It is difficult to pass up a movie starring the likes of Pacino, Walken and Arkin.

 

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RATING : ***

 

 

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