Director: Fisher Stevens.
Starring: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Lucy Punch, Julianna Margulies, Addison Timlin, Vanessa Ferlito, Bill Burr.
Running Time: 95 minutes.
Synopsis: A pair of aging stickup men try to get the old gang back together for one last hurrah before one of the guys takes his last assignment – to kill his comrade.
The name Fisher Stevens will be well known to many a movie and television buff. Some may know him for his supporting roles in hit drama series DAMAGES and LOST. Others, as the Oscar-winning producer of documentary, THE COVE. However, if like myself you grew up in the 1980s, he’ll best be remembered as the creator of Johnny 5 in the SHORT CIRCUIT franchise, or as the horny teen who lost his fingers in notorious cult horror, THE BURNING. Here, he’s at the helm for gangster comedy STAND UP GUYS which unites a lead trio of Oscar-winners that can only result in a masterpiece, right? Sadly not.
Much like pal De Niro, whenever Al Pacino is cast in something of late, we are left hoping the legendary actor is back to his best, but often left disappointed. Pairing him with the equally superb Christopher Walken, our hopes are raised even higher. We may not have a disaster of Jon Avnet proportions (the man responsible for both RIGHTEOUS KILL and 88 MINUTES), but STAND UP GUYS is a rather run-of-the-mill affair, saved only by an outstanding, heart-tugging central performance by the brilliant Walken.
We open with former career criminal Val (Al Pacino) being released from prison, looking a little worse for wear after serving twenty-eight years. His best friend Doc (Christopher Walken), barring the guilt of a friend’s life lost behind bars, is there to pick him up. Looking to help him get reacquainted with the way things are run now, we quickly realise Doc has a job he’s not at all looking forward to carrying out, but wants to give his pal a night to remember before it’s lights out!
Visiting old hooker haunts (new brothel owner Lucy Punch is a hoot), downing booze and any pills he can get his hands on, Val’s all too aware he’s for the chop after a past crime caused the death of his boss’ son – he’s just glad Doc’s the man they’ve sent. After breaking their old colleague Hirsch (Alan Arkin) out of a retirement home, they reflect on days gone by and try and have as much chaotic fun as possible before the sun comes up.
Despite Arkin being emblazoned on the promotional material, he’s a wasted opportunity that has only around fifteen minutes of amusing screen time. A lacklustre script means it’s a very low-key affair and fairly forgettable, if not for Walken and young Addison Timlin’s emotional and heartwarming relationship. As for Pacino, well, his toned down character is key to the plot, but it’s such a tepid tale that it’s difficult to get excited in what is such an impressive cast. Still, a lot like Val, you can’t help but long for another peak in his career.
If you’re expecting GOODFELLAS gangster-style violence and bloodshed, you’ll be sorely disappointed as it’s certainly a more personal and comedic story about missed opportunities and a friendship lost in time that suffers from a distinct lack of anything remotely engaging outside Walken’s reserved execution and a small, star-making turn from Timlin.