Stand Up Guys

by Jake Mulligan

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday February 1, 2013

Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin and Al Pacino
Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin and Al Pacino  

Older audiences can't complain that Hollywood doesn't cater to them, at least not anymore. We've seen the "retirement comedy" emerge as a full-fledged subgenre over the past year - "Quartet," "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." and even the recent "Last Stand," to an extent, have their main character flirting with a nursing home (and no, I won't be perverse and include "Amour" in the canon.)

Stand Up Guys, which trots Christopher Walken and Al Pacino through the usual clichéd gaggle of Viagra jokes and "it ain't like the good 'ol days" humor, doesn't do much to distinguish itself from the pack. It does have a genre edge: Walken's picked up Pacino from jail, and over the course of the night has to choose whether or not to whack his best friend at the behest of his violent boss. So ostensibly, it acts as a both a crime thriller and a broad comedy; but these "Guys" fail to deliver on any of their genre promises.

Christopher Walken and Al Pacino  

As such, the focus isn’t on character work so much as on mugging for the camera. The two slumming master-actors play out the usual glut of fish-out-of-water sequences, and some faux-action scenes pay off the barely-there plot (this is the type of movie where the main characters get into a high speed freeway chase, and no one else is ever on the road.) In between, we make a trip to the nursing home, and even have a heartfelt, impromptu funeral. So yeah, this is basically the octogenarian remake of "Mikey & Nicky."

But that’s not to say it doesn’t have its fair share of "they went there?" moments. In fact, some of the humor is downright off-kilter; feeling like it was ripped out of a much riskier movie. "What’s that," Pacino’s party-monger queries, digging through Walken’s collection of prescriptions. "My cataract medicine," Walken replies, in his typically droll tone. "Well, I’ll blow it. Maybe it’ll give me a buzz." Later on, when Big Al is browsing the wares at a brothel, the madam propositions him: "She’s from Minsk. Very clean." During that line of dialogue, we cut to a deadpanned take of Ms. Minsk licking the underside of Pacino’s face. (Of course, not all the dialogue transcends cliché. This is also the type of movie where a kick to the groin is preceded by a "Nutcracker" joke.)

So that’s all to say that "Stand Up Guys" is distinctive enough to not be demeaning. We’ve seen these guys embarrass themselves a lot over the past few years - we’re still all trying to block "Jack and Jill" out of our collective memories, I know - and this is hardly an embarrassment on that level. But that doesn’t mean it’s fun to watch, either.