A pair of aging con men try to get the old gang back together for one last hurrah before one of the guys takes his last assignment — to kill his comrade.
The Good Old Days
Director Fisher Stevens is better known for his acting, but has previously found success behind the camera on projects like Early Edition. With this outing he brings together a great cast of veteran actors and up and comers to make a surprisingly good buddy film. Its straightforward storyline, confident direction, and solid performances make Stand Up Guys a movie worth seeking out.
Stevens brings together quite a cast. Pacino and Walken headline as former criminals and the best of friends. The film opens as Pacino is released from a long stint in prison. Walken, the only friend from their past who’s kept in constant touch, arrives to pick him up. This isn’t really a spoiler, but as the story continues, we quickly learn that Walken has been tasked to kill his best friend before the night is through. The rest of the story plays out as a cast hurrah for Pacino. The last meal of a soon to die man, so to say. Both Pacino and Walken turn in great performances. In particular, Al Pacino turns in probably his best performance in years. This film actually reminds me of Pacino’s earlier role as a blind man in Scent of a Woman. A man making the best of a situation he can’t control. He deals with it with warmth and humor and without crying victim-hood. Walken has been far more consistent in his recent roles and I would say he did a more interesting job in his role from the recent Seven Psychopaths. His character here is still great though as he does a good job of playing the friend who’s had to live with the burden of knowing he would have to kill his friend.
Although Walken and Pacino are the principle characters in this piece, the film is stacked full of many other recognizable faces. Alan Arkin plays their 3 wheel, literally. His character was the wheelman in their crime filled past, but has been relegated to a slow death in a nursing home. His character is in the film for a short time, but manages to leave his mark. Two especially great moments to look out for are the aftermath at the brothel and his emotional moment at the warehouse. Besides Arkin, the film also includes Julianna Margulies, Mark Margolis, Lucy Punch as a really strange brothel madam, and Vanessa Ferlito in a role that…well, see the film. All the actors/actresses do their best with the material and each gets their moment to shine, either as comic relief (Punch) or as a means to strengthen the characters of the principles (Arkin).
Speak For Yourself
The negative critiques I’ve found were from people who were upset they weren’t getting their vision of what should have happened. The film has more humor than most will be expecting and I see many critics who wanted the story to be serious drama, some even got upset because this wasn’t an Oscar caliber film (whatever that means), and countless others compared the tone of this film to Grumpy Old Men. Sorry, why is that a bad thing?
All that (again) to mean they expected one thing and got something else. Admittedly, the trailers do emphasize the “best friend must kill best friend” angle which suggests an edgier and darker tone, but I say you’re an idiot if you call yourself a veteran of movie watching and then still trust a trailer to project the true character of the film you’re about to see. Forgive the momentary rant. All this to say that watching the film without pre-conceptions might just allow you to appreciate its charm and wit and maybe dare I say that you might actually have a good time at the movies.
A grade for direction
B+ grade for acting
B grade for story
Overall B+ for a smile inducing, feel good time at the cinema.