A movie called “Stand Up Guys” that contains the line, “They’re the kind of guys who take your kidneys and don’t even try to sell them,” sounds like maybe it’s about gangster comedians. Or witty wise-guys. Or hilarious hit men. Instead it’s an occasionally funny, but mostly heartfelt look at friendship disguised as a buddy movie starring Al Pacino and Christopher Walken.
Pacino is Val, a career criminal and “stand up guy” who did a twenty-eight year stretch in prison rather than implicate his partners in crime. He soon discovers, however, that his first day of freedom may become his last day on earth. His old boss Claphand (Mark Margolis) has hired Val’s best friend Doc (Walken) to kill him in revenge for the death of his son almost three decades ago.
Doc is conflicted about the job, even though Val seems to understand the twisted logic of the underworld vendetta. With just ten hours until the deadline (literally, Val must be dead by 10 am) the old friends go on a spree, breaking their friend Hirsch (Alan Arkin) out of his retirement home and going on a last caper or two.
“Stand Up Guys” is just slightly less than the sum of its parts. The leads—Pacino, Walken and Arkin—combined bring with them a century or two of screen work, and it shows. It’s a pleasure to see these three old pros cut through this material like a pizza cutter through tender dough.
It’s too bad then, that the material contains Viagara jokes that would seem more appropriate in a “Grumpy Old Men” movie. That and the long shadow of Tarantino that blankets almost every scene leaves the film feeling less than original despite the engaging performances.
It is, however, almost worth the price of admission to listen to Christopher Walken talk about watching television, or “cable teeVEE” as he pronounces it.