If you've ever dreamed of seeing Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin together in the same movie, well... keep on dreaming. Because whatever deranged feature your mind conjures up while you're sleeping will almost certainly be better than Stand Up Guys the painfully bad crime comedy that finally unites these three acting legends under the guidance of director Fisher Stevens. (Yes... that Fisher Stevens). Not since Pacino squared off against Robert De Niro in Righteous Kill has a single movie so thoroughly blasphemed a set of Acting Gods.
You'd think actors of this caliber would want to team up for the first time in a script penned by Shakespeare or, at the very least, David Mamet. But no, instead they picked this half-assed screenplay from untested scribe Noah Haidle, which casts them as a trio of veteran con men who get back together for one wild night of mischief. Val (Pacino) has just been sprung after almost three decades in the slammer and his old pal Doc (Walken) is waiting outside to pick him up. Their first stop? A brothel run by Lucy Punch of all people, where Pacino tries and fails to relieve 30 years of sexual frustration, necessitating a detour to a drug store in search of some Viagra. (You know the title Stand Up Guys? Yeah... let's just say that doesn't just refer to their stalwartness or ability to stay planted on their feet without falling over.)
Although the store is closed, Doc isn't about to let a little thing like that stand in his way of Val's happiness. So they break in and steal the magic boner pills, allowing Pacino to utter the immortal words: "I'm so fucking hard, I could cut a diamond!" This one crime proves to be a gateway drug that leads them down the path of committing a bunch of other misdemeanors, especially once they reconnect with the third member of their gang, Richard (Arkin). When they're not causing trouble as only septuagenarians can, they're reminiscing about the old days to anyone who will listen... anyone, in this case, being a stream of younger women (including Punch, Vanessa Ferlito and Julianna Margulies as Arkin's daughter) that inexplicably hang on their every word. What the other guys aren't aware of is that Doc has struck a deal with a vengeful gangster to deliver Val to his doorstep for execution -- a punishment he earned for offing the guy's son all those years ago. Will Doc follow through on the deal? Or will friendship win out over revenge?
More importantly, though, who cares? As written by Haidle and directed by Stevens, Stand Up Guys barely feels like a movie, but rather an excuse for the writer and director to spend an extended amount of time in the company of three of their idols. And who can blame them? Pacino, Walken and Arkin were probably a ton of fun to hang out with and listen to spill secrets from their glory days. But whatever charisma existed between them off screen doesn't make it into the picture. And that's the danger of this increasing trend toward Avengers-like assemblings of veteran actors in the same movie, a la The Expendables or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. (I'm still waiting for the inevitable American remake of the latter movie, where De Niro, Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, Dyan Cannon and Chevy Chase make the pilgrimage to India.) While these experienced performers may be terrific individually, their acting styles aren't guaranteed to complement each other when they're sharing the same frame. And that's what happens here, with the three leads acting past each other rather than alongside each other. It's almost as if they were each filmed separately and then composited together in post-production. Since getting these guys together is the only reason Stand Up Guys exists in the first place, if they don't click than the movie doesn't click. You're better off staying home and programming a triple feature of their individual classics (my recommended line-up would be Dog Day Afternoon, The Rocketeer and King of New York) and giving this long-awaited union a miss.
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