Stand Up Guys
Starring Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Julianna Margulies, Lucy Punch,
Even iconic actors can make bad movies, and Stand Up Guys is proof of that. Directed by veteran character-actor-turned-director Fisher Stevens, this movie is like a glimpse into the future when The Hangover team is on The Hangover 32. It’s as if someone had the dumb idea (screenwriter Noah Haidle) to turn The Hangover into an elderly version. We get the drugs, prostitutes, illegal activity—all the crazy stuff from the raunchy buddy movies—except actors near and dear to our hearts are portraying them; it’s almost disturbing. There is an escalation of films about, and geared towards, the over-55 crowd (and its wonderful) but within that surge there was bound to be a rotten apple and this is it.
Twenty-eight years ago Val (Pacino), a cheesy criminal, took the fall for the group. He kept his mouth shut, but he did kill the son of the crime boss. Now, as he is released from prison, his only friend, Doc (Walken), is there to pick him up and show him a good time. The catch is that Doc has been hired to kill his own best friend. Val understands the compromise Doc has made, and wants to live his last 24 hours to the fullest. They take their old driver Hirsch (Arkin) out of the nursing home for one last spin. As the night turns into day, the two friends must deal with the inevitable and face their fears.
This film is more interested in satire than emotional character arcs.
Stand Up Guys does not reveal the era it’s set in until Pacino’s character steals a new Dodge Charger and can’t figure out how to start it without a key. The film gets much of its comedy routine out of old guys adapting to a modern world or trying to play the game like they did in their youth. Pacino plays the type of big mouth, obnoxious character he has done before, which isn’t exciting. One of the many low points of the film is seeing him with an issue after having taken too many “boner pills”. Another really dull casting is former ER and current The Good Wife star, Julianna Margulies playing a nurse.
Walken is better than the rest of the cast because his character at least has a decent struggle to manage, but this film is more interested in satire than emotional character arcs. “It’s time to kiss a*s or chew gum… and I’m all outta gum,” Val and Doc say as if they have said it a million times, then Doc does a little old-man dance. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Hope Springs, Hitchcock, and even Skyfall and A Late Quartet, to a certain extent, deal with stories or characters facing the winter of their lives and their personal struggles. All of the films I mentioned highlight and explore those characters, unlike many films that degrade and do injustice to elderly roles. Stand Up Guys has no real depth or understanding of its characters, which are poorly drawn; unfortunately, its intention is a laugh or a spoof, rather than a statement.
In 30 years this is what The Hangover series will look like.