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Stand Up Guys

Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin star in a film written by Noah Haidle and directed by Fisher Stevens.


Stand Up Guys is set in some mythical city that is sort of Los Angeles and kinda Philadelphia. The time could be now, but since everyone is listening to deep-cut soul songs, it could also be the 1970s.

Maybe you think that’s the point — a film about old hoods reuniting for one last blazing night of criminal activity, which starts with a prolonged Viagra joke and ends with lighthearted murders. But it ends up feeling more like a Tarantino film, minus the unerring sensationalistic flourishes. It makes sense for a crime fantasia to be set once upon a time and place, but the mythmaking here just leads the film down too many blind alleys. There is a nonsensical funeral where our stylish crook buddies involve the daughter of one of their formerly dangerous colleagues. Later, a flukey set piece begins with a naked woman in the trunk of a stolen car and ends with a baseball ascending to a rapist’s crotch. We’re meant to see these stylish old rogues as questing knights, saving damsels while bending themselves to vengeances, yet a lot of this film seems half-baked. Or, better yet, written while fully baked.

But it does have three formidable assets: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and a relatively brief interlude with the great Alan Arkin. Walken makes his many eccentricities seem like performance art, while Pacino is a ball of smooth fury. The best thing about this inconsequential film is watching how much fun these actors are having playing fading legends with some grace left over; they’re the coolest hams in the business. But it’s not enough to make anybody but big fans enjoy themselves too.

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