Movie Review: Stand Up Guys

Mike Finkelstein is wondering what it would be like to spend a day with Al Pacino and Christopher Walken. Would it be relaxing? Would it be crazy? Would it be everything he ever dreamed it could be? One day, he went to the movies to find out...suddenly, Mike is a little scared to hang out with Walken and Pacino. Here is his review for “Stand Up Guys”.

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Mike Finkelstein is wondering what it would be like to spend a day with Al Pacino and Christopher Walken.  Would it be relaxing?  Would it be crazy?  Would it be everything he ever dreamed it could be?  One day, he went to the movies to find out…suddenly, Mike is a little scared to hang out with Walken and Pacino.  Here is his review for “Stand Up Guys”.

PLOT: After 28 years in prison, Val (Al Pacino) is finally released into the hands of his closest friend, Doc (Christopher Walken).  But despite not giving up his partners of the heist for nearly three decades, a single accident that fateful night pins him as a dead man…with Doc being the one forced to finish the job.  For the next 24 hours, the two wrestle with how to live the definite last day of Val’s life, and the possible final day of Doc’s.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: If you watch the above trailer, you’d think that STAND UP GUYS would be a welcomed return to form for Al Pacino.  You’d think that always reliable and eccentric Christopher Walken would be impeccable, and with the two of them relieving the good old days (but, as they say, better), we’d have a beautiful drama to make us think about life long after we left the theater.

So what the hell happened?

With such an attractive plot, I was expecting greatness from STAND UP GUYS.  Within the first fifteen minutes, I was getting nervous.  Both Walken and Pacino looked tired, out of it, and off their game.  We aren’t even scratching the surface yet, and two of the best actors of all time are doing no better than two old men in an Intro to Acting course?  Again, I repeat…What the hell happened?

Fast forward a few scenes, and luckily for us, Pacino is doing much better, throwing his weight around in a hysterical scene that’s basically a warning for taking too much Viagra.  Add onto that one very emotional, subtle conversation with Doc about all he’s gone through and being a stand up guy, and you could almost redeem the man completely.  However, those hints of classic Pacino are few and far between, and we are left yearning for the man we once knew.

While Pacino gave some sporadic moments of hope (although let’s face it…if a long Viagra joke is one of the two best parts of a film, what are we really saying?), Walken is absent completely, giving a new meaning to the term ‘minimalism.’  It hurts to bad mouth the legend, but let’s just say that the caricature of him from “Cooking With Christopher Walken” has come to the forefront.  It’s perfectly fine for comedies, but not for a role like this, especially when what could be great lines are delivered like he’s doing a bad impersonation of himself.  Give me something, please!

As for the story, screenwriter Noah Haidle seemed to have his heart in the right place, but with legendary possibilities and a small time frame, he made the common mistake of trying to pack too much in.  More of a series of incidents than an actual movie with a plot, everything felt very awkwardly paced, with simple scenes lasting too long and what could have been epic scenes going by way too quickly.  Pack onto that some absolutely ridiculous moments (including the absolutely ludicrous death and burial of one character), some forced back story, and a constantly changing soundtrack telling you how to feel and you never get a chance to find your footing long enough to enjoy what’s going on.

So was there anything redeeming, you might ask?  Besides Pacino’s small moments of glory and some beautiful cinematography, it was honestly the supporting cast who saved the film, with each actor doing the best job they can with what they were given. Alan Arkin is by far the most fun and most alive as Hirsch, Val and Doc’s friend and former wheel man who gets ‘broken out’ of his nursing home.  He is loving every minute of the role and it shows through.  On the villainous side, it was a “Breaking Bad” reunion, with series regulars Mark Margolis as boss Claphands and Bill Burr as his head enforcer, both of which do a decent job (although I couldn’t help but think of Burr at Ted Beneke’s home every time I saw him…).  As for the ladies, Julianna Margulies, Lucy Punch, Weronika Rosati, Addison Timlin and Katheryn Winnick aren’t given too much, but are all beautiful and try their best, with Punch especially giving some major character and laughs to a role that could have been nothing.

Somewhere hidden deep inside of STAND UP GUYS is not just a good movie, but a great one.  You have the first-time pairing of two legendary actors, a storyline that tugs at the heart strings, and an idea that, by the trailer alone, leaves you thinking about your life.  What we got instead is a half-assed piece of work with good intentions.  With two leads that don’t seem to really want to be there and a story that almost seems to be strung together like a laundry list of ‘funny old people situations’, it’s hard to care whether these two gentlemen are really Stand Up Guys or not.  And in the end, with what could have been, that’s just a disappointment…

GRADE: C+

Mike’s LIKES:

1) ALAN ARKIN: Subtle yet hysterical, Alan Arkin is the greatest part of this entire film.  Out of all our veterans, he is the one who seems to be having the most fun, and every moment on screen with him is pure gold.

2) LUCY PUNCH: I have to give this girl credit…if you read the role of Wendy in a script, there is no way that the character she created would have come to mind.  I don’t know if Punch was told to play Wendy the way she did, or if she came up with it all by herself, but I will shake her hand for creating something huge and three dimensional out of complete nothingness.

2) BONER JOKES: No matter what you say, it’s still amusing to hear Al Pacino and Alan Arkin make boner jokes.  I chuckled at least.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) AL PACINO AND CHRISTOPHER WALKEN: For the past decade, people have been giving Robert DeNiro a hard time for phoning all in his performances.  Only recently, which such films as BEING FLYNN and SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, has he been coming out of his slump.  With STAND UP GUYS, one has to wonder if that means that Al Pacino and Christopher Walken have somehow caught DeNiro’s bug…let’s hope not.

2) DISJOINTED STORY: More like a series of events than an actually straight story line, we never have enough time to really enjoy what is going on, because we’re constantly moving to some new predicament (although the soundtrack definitely tries to lead us and let us know how we should feel…)

3) ONE-DIMENSIONAL SUPPORTING CHARACTERS: All the supporting characters felt like just that: characters needed to push the story along.  Granted, this wasn’t an issue because of the actors, but because of the writing, which left us with clichés, attempted one-liners, and emotional moments that made absolutely no sense in the scheme of things.  As I said, all the actors did the best with what they had, but they could have done so much better if they just had something good…

EXTRA FACTS:

1) Jon Bon Jovi took home an Oscar Nomination for Best Original Song for his soundtrack contribution, “Not Running Anymore”

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