These weary 'Stand Up Guys' need to sit down and rest
Not every senior citizen passes his or her autumn years in dignity, surrounded by family, respected by the few peers they still have left in this world.
And if the retirees in question are grizzled mobsters, old “made men” who haven't been in “our thing” for years and years, the last thing they'd ever expect to be is dignified.
One might live in denial, straining to act out versions of their younger selves in defiance of the passage of time. Another might have, for all intents and purposes, “checked out” before he checks out.
And one might wear the weight of their years and the guilt of their deeds, hanging on almost out of remorse.
“Stand Up Guys” is about three aged stand-up guys, a “crew” that hasn't been a crew in almost 30 years. It has three comically charismatic Oscar winners in the lead roles - Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin - and a plot with room for comedy in it.
But the funereal tone is better suited to a picture with more gravitas than this Fisher Stevens film earns.
Pacino is Val, a mop-topped convict who gets out of a long stint in prison as the film opens.
Walken is Doc, his pal, loyal since the ‘70s, when Val went in. Doc is every inch the old man - a veritable recluse, painting, living in a dank apartment, visiting the same diner for every predictable meal.
But Val wants to party like it's 1979. Find a bar, find a brothel. That's not working out? Find some of this “new stuff” they've got now, Viagra.
It's meant to be a night “like the old days.” But there's a mob boss who still has a grudge. One guy is supposed to kill the other.
Val and Doc get into a kerfuffle. They right a wrong, steal a car. They drag their old getaway driver (Alan Arkin) out of a nursing home - oxygen tank and all.
They reminisce. “Remember that time you threw that Greek out the hotel window?”
Walken brings a quiet dignity to Doc, a man of violence long reformed - “I'm retired. I'm serious.”
But Pacino's Val ignores the entreaties of one and all to not embarrass himself. He does.
Arkin sparks the picture to life, acting his age AND being funny at it. And the addition of Julianna Margulies as the child of one “Stand Up Guy” and of Lucy Punch as the madam at the cut-rate brothel enlivens a few scenes.
But the central premise is a half-hearted retread. And the gags come from a score of earlier films and sitcoms.
Which is pretty much where these “Stand Up Guys” are stuck.
Roger Moore is a film critic for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.