Movie review: Stand Up Guys

By Alex Patel

“Stand Up Guys” is not exactly movie that the trailers make it seem.

While the movie still has the basic punch lines that any run-of-the-mill action-comedy is anticipated to have, director Fisher Stevens (“Decisions”) also incorporates a surprising amount of heartfelt emotion and light drama. However, the inconsistency and sloppy transitions between the serious and humorous parts make the movie underwhelming and difficult to watch.

“Stand Up Guys” revolves around the reunion of released convict Valentine (Al Pacino, “The Son of No One”), better known as Val, and his longtime friend and crime partner Doc (Christopher Walken, “Seven Psychopaths”). After picking up their friend and former getaway driver Richard Hirsch (Alan Arkin, “Argo”) from a retirement home, the gang decides to pursue a night of debauchery. No night out with older-aged men is complete without stolen prescription drugs, a joy ride, awkward dancing, a brothel and a steak.

The laughs aside, Stevens adds some raw drama that is not expected in a typical action-comedy. Walken’s stoic dialogue and soft-put mannerisms along with visible tears allows genuine emotion to seep through an otherwise deadpan performance. Pacino gives a rather average performance filled with repetitive talk and cliché jokes. Nonetheless, Pacino is able to showcase his more expressive side in subtle scenes, such as when Val slow dances with a younger woman at a bar.

Arkin shines when he needs to despite having hardly any screen time. Shockingly, Doc’s granddaughter, Alex (Addison Timlin, “Afterschool”), who is a waitress in a diner, gives one of the most compelling performances in the film. Timlim’s upbeat, youthful energy is a nice contrast to the hardened and nostalgic attitude of the older men. Lucy Punch (“Bad Teacher”), who portrays the manager of a brothel, also adds some well-timed humor in her short time in the film.

Although presented as a crime-comedy, “Stand Up Guys” feels more like a soft drama at times. The joke-filled but honest conversations between the main characters speak to deep philosophical themes about old age, regret and responsibility. At certain points the laughs are necessary to counterbalance a few grim moments, such as the death of a friend.

However, the director unsuccessfully blends the action-comedy side of the film with the more serious and somber parts.  A slow-paced and heartfelt dialogue between Val and Doc immediately transitions to a brawl in a clothing store. The action in “Stand Up Guys” seems out of place at times and takes away from the thoughtful developments in the film. Stevens’ lack of focus takes away from the full potential this movie has to really engage audiences.

“Stand Up Guys” doesn’t fall into any major pitfalls that make it totally unbearable.  Although the mix of action and drama does not mix well, it does not completely take away from the enjoyable and hilarious parts of this movie.  Ultimately, the star-filled cast, tolerable directing and a mediocre plot make for a satisfactory film.

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