Derek Winnert


This article was written on 29 Jun 2013, and is filled under Reviews.

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Stand Up Guys – Film Review


The 73-year-old Al Pacino stars alongside the 70-year-old Christopher Walken as retired gangsters Val and Doc, who reunite for one epic last night of friendship, sex and violence. Val is released from prison after serving 28 years for refusing to give up one of his criminal associates. He’s met at the jail by his buddy Doc. Problem is, Doc has been ordered by vengeful associate Claphands (Mark Margolis) to kill Val before 10am next morning, or else.

Stand Up Guys bills itself as an action comedy, but sadly there aren’t enough of either in a satisfactorily quirky script that unfortunately lacks the needed strength and power – and good, witty one-liners. It’s another one of those movies that’s just two blokes talking, and that’s ultra- tricky to pull off. The original screenplay by first-timer Noah Haidle can’t do it.

It’s great to have Pacino and Walken together in huge roles and in a nice odd-couple buddy-buddy movie. They’re all-time favourites, of course, and could pretty much get away with reciting the phone book as riveting entertainment. Lucky that, because the script continually lets them down. There are good moments in the film, some strong scenes, some excellent dialogue, though not enough and then mostly only later in the yarn. It goes without saying, though I’ll say it, that Pacino and Walken make the most of any opportunity. The 79-year-old Alan Arkin’s third billed above the title, though he doesn’t appear for 45 minutes and disappears after half an hour. Even he can do nothing with his nothing old codger role, an ancient, dying guy sprung from an old folks’ home for a night of fun.

The film is directed by Fisher Stevens, the actor, and joint Oscar winner for the 2009 documentary The Cove. His work here is plain and uninspired, but serviceable, though he does provide a few little directorial flourishes. I don’t suppose he’d have dared direct his star players a bit – less here Al, more here Chris, that kind of thing. Might have helped his movie and, dare I say, their performances.

‘I felt this was a little off beat. It was a little bit about friendship and had a certain humour to it. And it’s a character that I don’t think I’ve played,’ Pacino says. ‘I like the idea of someone being away for that long. Imagine being out of touch for all that time.’ So you see what they’re going for here, it’s just that they don’t get there.

I hope the stars got on well while making the movie. They look as though they’re enjoying themselves. A film reunion of Pacino and Walken anytime soon would be good. Just if they get a script that’s right.

(C) Derek Winnert 2013

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