This character drama about three gangsters in their twilight years relies way too much on the three leads’ star power (and resumes) to get by with audiences. The plot is relatively straightforward, but the tonal shifts and character development are a mess.
The three amigos are Val (Al Pacino), who has just finished a 28-year stretch in a maximum security prison; Doc (Christopher Walken), who has retired from crime and spends most of his days working on his landscape paintings, watching cable TV and “trying to eat right”; and Hirsch (Alan Arkin), the former getaway driver who disease has led into a nursing home.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you know that Doc has been tasked, on pain of death, with killing his friend Val. So we know what’s supposed to happen. But there’s no logic from scene to scene. The opening is pretty much ruined by director Fisher Stevens taking us through Pacino’s greatest hits, including a manhood-affirming dance scene. This section is also accented with a series of Viagra jokes. They visit a whorehouse and a bar; they fetch Hirsch from his sick room and go for a joy ride; they avail themselves of a chance to play heroes. Underneath it all, the ticking time bomb of Doc’s task should be increasing the tension. But it doesn’t.
Of course, there are girls. Addison Timlin has an air of sunshine and puppies as a waitress who takes a kindly, familial liking to old Doc; Julianna Margulies has an effective bit as Arkin’s daughter; Lucy Punch (Cameron Diaz’ cracked rival in Bad Teacher) delivers another memorable comic gargoyle as a dorky madam; and Vanessa Ferlito, famously decapitated by Kurt Russell’s murderous car in Tarantino’s Death Proof, gets back some of her cinematic own as a revenge-minded rape victim.
Stand Up Guys is ultimately all about the (old) boys. However rundown and rickety a vehicle the film may be, it does, in the end, manage to deliver them to a plausible fate.