Stand Up Guys (2012) is a perfect example of what I used to call a “blockbuster” movie. “Blockbuster” as in when you see a trailer for it in the theater, you say “Hey, this movie has Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin! But it doesn’t look that good.” So you skip it in the movie theater, but in the 1990s when you go to Blockbuster Video six months later, all the copies of the movies you really wanted to rent are out, so you see this one and you figure it’s “good enough” for a rental, along with 2 or 3 other movies that have someone in them you recognize, but you couldn’t quite muster up the energy or the time or the $5 to see it in the theater.
Look how far we’ve come as a society! Now the whole “eh, it’s good enough for a home viewing” process can completely take place on your couch, thanks to Netflix streaming. Too bad Netflix doesn’t have more of these type of titles. Well, maybe they do, and I just never think they are worth my time when there are other movies that might be good.
I guess I haven’t even technically reviewed this film yet, but it is the equivalent of a Blockbuster rental. The movie is directed by Fisher Stevens, who is better known (or at least seen) as an actor. Stand Up Guys is the first full-length movie script for screenwriter Noah Haidle, and I’m sure this movie was made because at least they could underpay the director and screenwriter, even if the trio of well-known actors didn’t take a pay cut to make this. The screenplay is a bit flat- some jokes hit their mark, while others are corny and obvious. The film goes where you expect it to. There was enough here where if they had gone a slightly different direction, it might have been memorable on some level. But it ends as you suspect, and if you suspect it is going to end the way many other films have, you (or at least I) won’t remember come this time next year. On a side note, I will say that I enjoyed this a lot more than Nebraska (2013), currently my nomination for the most overrated film of the year. Nebraska was also written by a first-timer, and I don’t look forward to either his or Haidle’s work in the future.
As for the acting, I remember the advertising for Stand Up Guys positioning itself as a comedy in the same vein as the more commerically successful Last Vegas (2013)(which I have not seen). It’s more of a dramedy, and at the very least I am happy to report that Al Pacino does a decent job here, and is not a complete caricature of himself. He is believable as an ex-con who has to face the consequences of the actions that lead him to prison, even on the day of his release. He certainly doesn’t embarrass himself like he’s done so much in the last decade or so (88 Minutesanyone?). Christopher Walken is good as almost always, playing the colleague of Pacino’s ex-con, who has to deliver street justice, albeit reluctantly. Alan Arkin’s part is pretty good, but far too short. Julianna Margulies is featured as Arkin’s daughter, and her role here will make fans of ER at least smile, if not chuckle. You’ll probably recognize Lucy Punch from other roles, while Vanessa Ferlito’s part seems to belong in another movie.
If you’re curious, or a fan of any of the actors, it may be worth your time. It is only 1hr 35 mins.