Thursday, February 7, 2013

Film Review: Fisher Stevens' Stand-Up Guys

This film, starring Al Pacino and Christopher Walken as aged ex-small time gangsters, may not have the heft and/or depth of many of these actor's younger day roles, but it still manages to resonate quite strongly at times, making for, if not a powerful film, at least a quaint one.  Granted, Stand-Up Guys, directed by actor-turned-director Fisher Stevens (you know, that guy from Short Circuit that used to be intimate with Michelle Pfieffer), is not what one would call especially creative in any particular way, but Pacino, with his over-the-top chutzpah, and Walken, with his low-key zen-like approach, play off each other quite nicely, and it is in this back-and-forth, where the movie succeeds.

Ostensibly, the film is about small-timer Valentine "my friends call me Val," a man enjoying his first day out of prison in 28 years, and his life-long best friend, Doc, who we learn early on (as early as the trailer actually), has been ordered to kill said best friend.   What we actually get, is basically a hang-out movie, where the fun is in watching Pacino as Val and Walken as Doc, just bantering back and forth, be it dramatically or comedically, even occasionally somewhat poignantly.  Like I said, the movie is not especially imaginative, and nothing really happens that even the most unobservant of moviegoers sees the proverbial mile away, but it is great fun to watch Walken and Pacino play off each others seeming whims.  And about halfway through the film, we get to see Alan Arkin as well, playing another old small timer gangster - the wheel man as it were - n what amounts to a relatively tiny part.  And, incidentally, once you have seen the film, you too will see the irony in my describing Arkin's part as tiny.

There are even the occasional Tarantinoesque moments, like when Walken and Pacino help a woman enact revenge on her assailants, complete with baseball bat and testicle joke.  Hell, Stevens even casts a Tarantino actress, Vanessa Ferlito of Death Proof lap dancing fame, in the vengeful role.  Then you have the ending.  Not to give anything away, but how else could this film end than the way it does.   Overall, perhaps not a great film by any stretch, but still a hell of a lot more entertaining than I ever imagined it could have been.  It's fun to see Pacino and Walken playing these parts, and being allowed the freedom to just throw caution to the wind, so to speak, and do what they do best.   It makes one recall the Pacino of Dog Day Afternoon or the Walken of The Deer Hunter.  Sure, these roles are nowhere near the level of those performances, but when compared to much of what these actors find themselves stuck in lo this past decade or so (perhaps Walken not as noticeably, as he manages to shine through even in lesser films), Stand-Up Guys, even as hokey as it gets near the end, is a welcome respite indeed.

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