Al Pacino and Christopher Walken’s mere presence in a film invites expectations, and understandably so. Add Alan Arkin to the mix, in a supporting role, and the stakes get even higher. So while Stand Up Guys is not a very good movie, it does offer the compensation of seeing three of our finest living actors working together. If you’re as much of a fan as I am, that may be enough…but, truth be told, they deserve a better vehicle, and as admirers, so do we.
Pacino, looking a bit haggard, plays a hood who’s just been released from prison after 28 years. His old cohort Walken brings him home and they spend the day and night together, catching up and rehashing old times. Eventually they spring Arkin, their third musketeer, from his nursing home for one last exploit.
Noah Haidle’s screenplay doesn’t offer many surprises, but every scene is imbued with a flavor that only actors of this caliber—and history—can provide. Our familiarity with Pacino, Walken, and Arkin and their cinematic history is crucial to whatever entertainment value Stand Up Guys has to offer. Oddly enough, the supporting roles nicely played by Julianna Margulies, Lucy Punch, Vanessa Ferlito, Katheryn Winnick, and Addison Timlin seem fresher than the leads, which have a second-hand feel to them. Mark Margolis’ part as a threatening underworld figure is a living cliché. I wish director Fisher Stevens had figured out a way to make him more genuine.
And yet… there’s no way to dismiss a movie that puts so much formidable talent on display. Stand Up Guys may be little more than a place marker in the careers of Pacino, Walken, and Arkin, but they (and their talented costars) certainly make it watchable.