If you thought all mob films were the same, you’re wrong. Fisher Stevens’ Stand Up Guys is that of a different breed. Part crime drama, part buddy comedy, Stand Up Guys explores the life of Val (Al Pacino), a former gangster who’s just been released for serving a 28-year murder charge. Indicted for refusing to snitch on his long-time criminal associate, 72-year-old Val is determined to make up for loss times in an effort to compensate for the decades of crime, drugs and sex he’s missed while in lock up.
From then on, moments of pure hilarity ensue with a few twists in between each act that are sure to grab one’s attention. Val’s old pal, Doc (Christopher Walken), is keeping a dangerous secret – his boss (Mark Margolis) has tasked him with a job, which involves vengeance for his deceased son. The twist though, is that Val already knows he’s the target, and isn’t at all threatened by Doc’s extremely uncomfortable disposition. All he seems to care about is reuniting his old gang members for one last epic night of debauchery — and that’s where the film really begins. You’d expect that if someone is out to speed up your expiration date, you want to off them first; but rather than showing signs of angst, Val is indifferent, and the interaction between he and Doc is surprisingly fun regardless of obvious plot deficiencies in Noah Haidle’s script.
Borrowing cues from Grumpy Old Men, Stand Up Guys features sarcastic yet witty one-liners, bits of the same kind of rowdiness found in Hangover, and spurts of adventure and excitement from The Bucket List. The characters possess human-like qualities: Pacino is over-the-top flamboyant, has no filter, and wants to make the most of his final 24 hours; Walken is a deadpan, loyal and sensitive. The two leads are certainly very colorful, but Alan Arkin’s Hirsch stands out the most among his fellow cast members. When we first meet him Hirsch is liberated from a nursing home, and immediately hijacks a Dodge charger for an adrenaline-pumping joyride on a highway before visiting a brothel.
Unfortunately, in his role, Arkin’s contributions are very short-lived so much of the movie loses its momentum after his departure. Not until Vanessa Ferlito enters the picture does Stand Up Guys get entertaining again, but not for long. Good thing Lyle Workman’s soundtrack has so much soul. Cuts from Baby Huey, Muddy Waters and other Blues icons help make all the highs and lows of this muddled narrative worthwhile.