Even Acting Legends Pacino and Walken Can’t Save Lackluster ‘Stand Up Guys’

Kurt Thurber


Spoiler alert: Al Pacino and Christopher Walken are old. This is the premise of the movie Stand Up Guys directed by former second male lead in the “Short Circuit” franchise, Fisher Stevens. Oh yes, Alan Arkin is also old. This is emphasized by breaking Arkin out of a nursing home. Upon which he is magically rejuvenated and no longer needs a respirator due to the mere presence of Pacino and Walken, basic medical science.


There is no use in memorizing the characters names or the movie’s exposition. Al Pacino plays a just released “gangster” who has all the exaggerated manners of Pacino, circa someone impersonating Pacino in Scent of Woman with a dash of Al Pacino from Heat. Christopher Walken plays Christopher Walken circa numerous Saturday Night Live appearances and one particular Fat Boy Slim video. For popcorn entertainment purposes this is not a bad thing. Walken could read bird bath installation instructions on the big screen for two hours and elicit more than a few chuckles. The movie is at its best with Arkin serving as an emotional fulcrum and delivering dry one-liners to extinguish Pacino’s over-acting.


The movie limps along at a choppy pace that dares a moviegoer to pay attention.  All females in Stand Up Guys only serve as one-dimensional, over-sentimental cyphers to bring attention to the fact that these gangsters need redeeming. In the Hollywood pantheon of careers that deserve redemption, gangsters certainly have the pole position.


Whether it is Sylvia, played by Vanessa Ferlito, who is so street-tough she brushes off an abduction and sexual exploitation due to Pacino’s and Walken’s sense of honor as men.  Julianna Margulies, feeling no need to stretch her acting chops, returns to the ER as a nurse and the daughter to Alan Arkin’s character. She is oddly touched when Walken explains he threw her in the air decades ago at birthday party. All the while, Pacino lies prone on a hospital bed suffering from an overdose of Viagra… because he is old. Then there is the waitress with a painfully obvious connection to Walken’s character, portrayed by Addison Timlin, whose character has been written to possess worldly wisdom beyond her years and child-like naivety when most convenient for the other characters in the film.


All films have an ending and this one is unsatisfactory. As with all tales of redemption, there is a final confrontation. The redeemed use their new found insight to defeat an adversary and/or perform an act of great sacrifice that will have their names whispered with reverence. In Stand Up Guys, Pacino and Walken spend more than hour using their worldly wisdom to best younger, stronger adversaries at every turn, woo women and heal past wrongs. They forget everything by the last five minutes of Stand Up Guys, including how to shoot. A lot of good windows are lost as a result. The essence of senility is captured as no one in the audience has a clue what happened or why.


Author Bio:

Kurt Thurber is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.

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