Stand Up Guys (2013)

Posted: May 30, 2013 in Movies


When trailers first started showing up for Stand Up Guys last fall, it seemed like we were once again being served a brimming, tasteless bowl of geriatric cinema that we had already swallowed with films like Grumpy Old Men, Space Cowboys, The Bucket List and others. You know the ones – where two-to-three old guys get together for their last heist/adventure/connection in an attempt to relive their past and/or add closure to their lives.

The concept, for me, produced a sleep-inducing yawn, and I mentally shuffled the film to the “wait for it to come out on DVD” portion of my expansive movie list. When it hit theaters in February, it made little impression on the box office, as movie-goers seemed more interested in spending their money on super heroes, paranormal activities, and Bradley Cooper.

Personally, I never would have bothered even renting the film had it not been for the inclusion of Christopher Walken. I could write this whole article about the sheer awesomeness of Walken’s body of work over his storied career – from portraying Nick in The Deer Hunter to the Army captain Koons in Pulp Fiction to the archangel Gabriel in The Prophecy. Honestly, I can’t say there has been a role played by him that I haven’t enjoyed – whether it be dramatic, comedic, or villainous. In Stand Up Guys, he’s a little of all three…

The story revolves around ex-convict Valentine – or “Val” – played by Al Pacino, whom, after his release from a 28-year stint in prison, is reunited with his partner-in-crime “Doc” (Walken) who takes him in and seems to be wanting to set him back on the straight and narrow. While the two re-establish their friendship and recount the crimes of times long past, it becomes clear that Doc is conflicted with the reunion – and with good reason.


Unbeknownst to Val, Doc has made a pact with the head crime boss (simply known as “Claphands”) agreeing to kill Valentine for his involvement in the death of Claphand’s son 30 years before. Like any true friend would, Doc wants to put off the execution as long as possible, treating Val to meals, hookers, drugs, and pretty much anything else he desires as the hours wind down to his demise. Val senses things are a bit off over time, and after a successful (and hilarious) kidnapping of their former wheelman (played brilliantly by Alan Arkin) from an old folk’s home, night becomes day and Val resigns to being out of luck and out of time.

While that pretty much covers the story of the film, it speaks little of what made it so memorable. The acting from these three Hollywood A-Listers was superb, and the subtle emotions were a grand testimony to the human condition as we know it. Several scenes of the film are simply long conversations between characters – but strong and poignant examples of what it feels like to be conflicted inside and the realization of such fears as failure, aging, and – inevitably – death.

There are small doses of laughs and gunfire scattered about the movie, but if you’re looking for a comedy or a crime/action film, Stand Up Guys will fail you on both fronts. That said, if you appreciate good old-fashioned acting and well-scripted dialogue, this film just may be one of the more memorable experiences of the year.

And that’s not even counting the last five minutes…

Available on DVD/BluRay now. Rated R. 95 minutes.



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