Old Dogs, New Tricks – Stand Up Guys Movie Review

Will Hanley

The movies I’ve been seeing and reviewing recently have been, to put it bluntly, very violent and depressing. Endless, disturbing scenes of gore, (as well as a good deal of analytical material), can get tiring. Believe it or not, it’s nice to sit down in a cushioned theater seat and, for once, take a break from the stone cold cinema that I’m used to. So if you’re looking for a film that is light, hilarious, and deliciously satisfying, pick Stand Up Guys.

This movie is a breath of fresh air from the normal glamorous, overconfident crud we usually get from movies these days. It’s backbone is it’s heart. The core of the film is a brotherly bond between two ex-convicts Doc and Val (Christopher Walken and Al Pacino), who, as obvious to the viewer, have performed many, MANY dangerous crimes over the years.

In the opening credits, Val is released from prison after a twenty-eight year sentence. Doc meets him at the gates and, with the help of their old getaway driver (Alan Arkin), they set out to have the last great adventure of their lives. Along the way they get into some BIG trouble involving, but not limited to, cops, thugs, and prostitutes.

And although these are ex-convicts, this isn’t an Ocean’s Eleven heist film. It’s not a noir, nor a caper. In fact, the only thing actually stolen is a refill for Doc’s prescribed joint medicine at the local pharmacy. It describes what happens next; after the criminals are released from jail, choose to forgo their life of crime, and settle down to start their own families. It’s a simple story about the unbreakable bond of trust, shared experience, and how Val, fresh out of jail, adapts to the brand new world of civility.

Performances by the three main actors were phenomenal. Christopher Walken and Al Pacino are like bread and butter together, working seamlessly to deliver an amazing onscreen chemistry that gives this movie some emotional weight and tone.

With the introduction of Alan Arkin about halfway through the movie, light humor is added into the already present delicious assortment of tangible emotions. The film is at its best when all three men are featured on screen. Unfortunately, these men are only reunited together for about twenty minutes of the film, which was disappointing.

The basis of Stand Up Guys’ comedic flavor is the juxtaposition between these old men and this futuristic world in which they now live. It’s funny when a ninety year old man gets behind the wheel of a 2012 Mustang and remarks about how he’s never seen “this many lights and gizmos.” This beautiful contrast is fluid throughout, wrapping a satisfying blanket of comedic creativity around the entire film.

Unfortunately, basic issues impede Stand Up Guys from being the “film of the decade.” When Walken, Pacino, and Arkin are on screen, the writing is poetic, beautiful, and interesting. However when they’re not, things go downhill fast. Many, if not all of the supporting characters are unsatisfactorily written and just plain dumb. It’s clear that the writers did not want to stray far from these three legendary centerpiece actors, as there is absolutely nothing positive to say about anyone else in the movie. This is one of those few instances where a supporting cast whatsoever is a bad idea.

Stand Up Guys isn’t an instant classic, but it is something special. It’s a statement, an exposé documenting the technological changes that can happen all around us while our hearts and human connections still remain the same. Stand Up Guys brings people the cinematic experience that we’ve all come to desire, but have long since taken for granted. In a sea of dime-a-dozen slashers, crashers, and smashers, Stand Up Guys delivers a cozy nebulous walk in the park that is far from forgettable.

The Verdict:

Acting: B+
Cinematography: A-
Writing: B-
Memorability: B+

Overall: B+

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2 Responses to “Old Dogs, New Tricks – Stand Up Guys Movie Review”

  1. David Schmitt on February 7th, 2013 1:40 pm

    Pacino and Walken together! I can’t wait to see it

  2. Evan on March 6th, 2013 9:04 pm

    Great movie review, I am for sure going to go see this now because I can truly appreciate this review, thanks!