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Pacino, Walken and Arkin 'Stand Up' to the test

Lionsgate

By Conrad Foreman, Daily Arts Writer
Published February 8, 2013

“Stand Up Guys”
Quality 16 and Rave 20
Lionsgate
B+

Pacino. Walken. Arkin. Could you ask for a better trio? “Stand Up Guys” features these three Academy Award-winning actors in the twilight of their careers, teaming up for an hour-and-a-half of actorial awesomeness.

Val (Al Pacino, “The Godfather”), an old con man, gets out of prison, having just served 28 years because of an accidental killing during a botched job. Doc (Christopher Walken, “Catch Me If You Can”), Val’s friend and former business partner, is there to welcome Val back to the world. However, this isn’t the joyful reunion of friends that it should be. Their old boss orders Doc to kill Val for allowing his son to die on the same job that landed Val in prison. Conflicted, but fearful of the consequences should he not carry out the job, Doc allows Val to spend his remaining hours in whatever way he wants (leading them to a brothel, a new car and A LOT of breaking and entering).

During their nighttime adventures, they rescue their old friend Hirsch (Alan Arkin, “Argo”), now residing in a nursing home. Hirsch is eager to escape, asking only that his friends let him “get another hit” of his oxygen tank before breaking out. Arkin is able to steal almost every scene he’s in, and he generates many of the laughs for a movie that is much more of a black comedy than it’s sold as.

The film has its fair share of deep and serious moments as well. Hirsch’s relationship with his daughter is featured, with her reflecting on the valuable lessons her father taught her. Doc’s attachment to his granddaughter becomes central to his character and the plot. Disconnected from his daughter, Doc has found his granddaughter and routinely interacts with her — unbeknownst to his daughter. The protection of friends and family emerges as the major theme of the film, as most of the decisions made by the characters are made in order to protect — or avenge — somebody important to them.

Pacino is perfectly suited for this role, as the character in some ways reflects his career in acting — the glory days of gunfights and heists are long gone, but this washed-up hero of old isn’t quite ready to let them go. Walken is exactly what he should (and is expected to) be. He delivers his lines with his signature deadpan expression and the most impersonated voice in Hollywood. There are even a couple of Walken “OH!” moments, which should all be treasured and cherished.

“Stand Up Guys” is by no means perfect. A few of the jokes fall flat and feel recycled, and there are some aspects to the story that are not entirely realistic. But what shortcomings this film has are overshadowed by impressive performances by the three leads and enough funny moments to keep up with its semi-comedic tone. The characters are believable and the connections between them feel genuine, as one would expect from this cast. This isn’t the Oscar-hungry movie that many people are expecting, but it’s entertaining and rewarding.


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