Dave's Rating:


Grumpy Old Gangsters

Somewhere in the land of films about aging, in between the austerity, stoicism and sadness of Amour and the luxurious fantasies of traveling pensioners in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or the cushy, cozy British retirement home warmth of Quartet, there's a middle ground where life is more rough around the edges and comedy evolves from real-life situations. But because there are probably more actual traveling pensioners or lucky old people in nice nursing homes per capita than there are geriatric mobsters, this story isn't where you're going to find what you're looking for.

Tough luck for everybody on that score, because in a world where most films still revolve around the complex life adventures of attractive 19-year-olds, older actors and the people who want to see them on big screens just take what they can get. That means that while there's nothing special about Stand Up Guys, at least you're treated to three stars in their comfort zones doing exactly what you've come to expect from each. You won't be challenged or pushed, just comfortably diverted.

Three retired criminals (Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Al Pacino) who used to be close, find their paths crossing again when Pacino leaves a 28-year stint in prison for not being a snitch. Walken meets him at the gate and the pair go off to do what men in lockdown can't: hit up a brothel, overdose on Viagra (because old-dude boners are never not comedy gold) and wind up in the ER. This bit of Benny Hill-ism leads them back to Arkin, who's given his own turn at the cathouse (see "old-dude boners" above) and at the wheel of a stolen car joyride/police chase. Over the course of their exhausting journey (and in a strange counterpoint to the happy prostitution narrative already set in motion), these stand-up guys rescue a gang-rape victim (Vanessa Ferlito) and engineer her shot at very specific revenge; they frequent diners; they engage in rambling conversations about life and death and regret and, finally, do their best to subvert a secret job from a former boss and perform at least one selfless act of generosity. They're honorable thieves, gangsters with hearts of gold, cuddly criminals, etcetera.

If you find yourself wondering how they, at their respective ages, can fit so much exertion into one day, you're not the problem. The script never met an incident it didn't feel compelled to squeeze in, so extraneous details that would wind up dumped in a leaner film are left to dangle in the breeze, all for the sake of misguided carpe diem spirit. What's left to salvage from the simultaneously overstuffed and forgettable plot are the performances. They're low-key and amiable, the work of three men who know why they were hired and who they're supposed to be in this kind of film. But they're also unmemorable footnotes to solid careers, nothing but self-referential brand-building. And when your name is Walken, Pacino or Arkin, that's kind of the last thing you need.


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