Movie Review: Stand Up Guys
Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: February 1, 2013
Directed By: Fisher Stevens
Stars: 3.5 out of 5
Despite its background of Mafia-style gangsters and violence, "Stand Up Guys" is a film about friendship and honor and how that plays out in the face of age and death. Written by emerging screenwriter Noah Haidle and directed by Fisher Stevens, the movie tells the story of three aging Baltimore gangsters on an evening that is best described as their last hurrah.
After twenty-eight years, Val (Al Pacino) is being released from prison where he was sent for accidently killing the son of a crime boss. During his time in jail, he refused to give up any of his criminal associates, choosing to keep a code of silence. Upon his release, he is met by Doc (Christopher Walken), a colleague from the old days.
While Val thinks he's embarking on a new life, Doc knows the opposite is true. The crime boss has not forgiven Val for killing his son and has ordered Doc to kill him within twenty-four hours of his release. Doc decides to give Val one last adventure via a thrill-filled evening.
A visit to the emergency room of a local hospital after a Viagra mishap puts them in touch with a nurse Nina (Julianna Margulies), whose ailing father Hirsch (Alan Arkin) was their getaway driver back in the day. The duo find him in a nursing home and lure him out to enjoy the evening with them.
Much of the movie details their shenanigans as they cut loose like teenagers with a newly minted driver's license. Director Steven Fisher gives these venerable actors room to expand their characters and do what they do best. Toward the end of the evening, however, Val senses something is wrong. He prods Doc, who is retired from the crime scene and now spends his time painting, to tell him what is going on. Doc finally confesses about the order he has been given.
Once the cat is out of the bag, the big question becomes where, when, and how Doc will make his move and whether he is capable of killing his best friend. Although he has spent a lifetime being proud of the fact that he is a standup guy, he has to decide whether he's going to go through with the hit or walk away at the risk of his own life.
While director Fisher Stevens is an experienced stage and screen actor with appearances in "Lost," "Numb3rs," and "Californication," he is a fledgling director. Before his stint directing "Stand Up Guy," he had only directed one other feature film, "Just a Kiss." While some say his inexperience showed in the final cut of the film, others believe that he intended to give the acting trio of Pacino, Walken, and Arkin free reign to highlight their acting chops.
Al Pacino, who was seventy-two when the movie opened, is a Hollywood favorite who skyrocketed to fame when he played the role of Don Michael Corleone in "The Godfather" franchise, which debuted in 1972. He has also starred in classic films such as "Serpico," "Dog Day Afternoon," "Dick Tracy," and "Carlito's Way," and will forever be remembered for his performance in "Scent of a Woman." He has won an Academy Award and four Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor and was the recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2001. He was also awarded an Emmy in 2004 for his role in "Angels in America" as well as in 2010 for "You Don't Know Jack."
Christopher Walken, another Hollywood powerhouse, had just turned seventy when the film debuted. Walken has perfected the art of playing psychologically unstable characters. Unlike Pacino, whose acting career really started in the early 1970s, Walken has been gracing the stage and screen since the early 1950s. Although he had roles in blockbuster hits like "Annie Hall" and "The Sentinel," it was his role as Nick in "The Deer Hunter" in 1978 that thrust him into the limelight. Some of his other notable movies include "Pulp Fiction," "Sleepy Hollow," and "Man of the Year."
Alan Arkin, the oldest member of the trio at seventy-eight, is another classic Hollywood name. He won a spot in Americans' hearts with his starring role in "Inspector Clouseau" in 1968 and was also featured in "Edward Scissorhands," "Marley and Me," and "Argo."
The film debuted in October 2012 at the Chicago International Film Festival and then was shown at the Mill Valley Film Festival. In December 2012, it premiered in theaters in Los Angeles and New York and was released across North America on Feb. 1, 2013. It received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song for the Bon Jovi tune "Not Running Anymore."