"Stand Up Guys"
Release date: 2012 (limited), 2013
Produced by: Lionsgate
Featuring: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Lucy Punch, Julianna Margulies, Addison Timlin, Vanessa Ferlito
Directed by: Fisher Stevens
Running time: 95 minutes

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Stand Up Men
Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin and Al Pacino in "Stand Up Guys."
Pacino and Walken team up in a gritty gem of a crime comedy
It takes two old pros to play two old pros with such panache
December 29, 2013

Watch "Stand Up Guys" to see Al Pacino and Christopher Walken act.

There is a good, almost predictable story, and some other good performances, including by Alan Arkin and Lucy Punch, but really, watch this movie for Pacino and Walken.

Performances this good, with this mix of power and subtlety, just don't come along all that often.

Pacino is Val, an old crook who's been in prison for 28 years. Everything about him — the way he walks, the way he lets his head loll, the way his suit hangs on him — shows his 70 years.

Yet there's still some grit left in this guy.

Walken is Doc, Val's old partner in crime, his friend since childhood.

For the 28 years, Doc was the only one who kept contact with Val, who send care packages to the prison.

When Val gets out — shaking the hand of a guard at the gate — Doc is there to pick him up. There's a little uncertainty about whether they should just shake hands or hug, but there is a deep concern and friendship that kind of glows within, and lights the screen, even through very understated performances.

And an edge of something else that is to play out bit by bit through the movie.

Doc, who is almost all quiet, takes Val to his apartment, which Val likens to the prison he's just left. Part of it is Doc's paintings. That's what Doc does: He gets up, has breakfast at a diner, paints, watches TV, goes to bed. Paintings of sunrises — some of which he sent to Val in prison. Val likes the paintings.

Val wants to get laid, so Doc — who is paying all the bills — takes Val to a whorehouse. Val has the desire but not the body for it. So they break into a pharmacy (the old skills are still sharp) and Val is introduced to hard-on pills. His way with pills? Swallow them by the handful.

Doc, meanwhile, loads up on his own pills, for blood pressure, cataracts and other problems.

They go back to the whorehouse and Val's manhood is once again fully functional — in fact, too functional, and we get to find out why the commercials say "Seek immediate medical help if you experience an erection lasting longer than four hours."

Hahahah! The needle! The needle!

A nurse, Nina, played with practiced medical competence by Julianna Margulies (remember her in "E.R."?), is the daughter of Doc and Val's old pal Hirsch, who is in a nursing home, Nina tells them.

They decide to bust him out, and the great Alan Arkin enters the mix, first as an old guy in an oxygen mask, then as their old getaway driver, who knows how to deal with the hot car they'd just stolen from some bad guys.

Noah Haidle's script slowly deals out the details about why Doc is staying a little aloof, but still doing all he can to give Val a great time — dinner, dancing, whorehouse — because both men know that a crime boss, Claphands (played with considerable nastiness by Mark Margolis), wants Val dead.

Claphand's son was killed in a caper gone bad, and he blames Val for it.

Val figures out who is supposed to kill him. He accepts the situation.

The two friends have several adventures over the long night — 10 a.m. is the deadline — including with Hirsch as the driver of their stolen hotrod.

What does Hirsch want, now that they busted him out of the nursing home?

He wants to get laid by two women at one time.

OK, back to the whorehouse, and fun with Lucy Punch, as the madam, Wendy. She is friendly in a way that is almost goofy early on, though still with a businesswoman's spine of steel. Till after she has sex with Hirsch. It's a cute bit, including the touch that Hirsch is upset because he stepped out on his wife — who's been dead "for ages!" as Val points out.

All this stuff going on — the pills, the drinking, the ridiculous meals, the break-ins, the crimes, the shooting, the stealing of cars and rescuing of women in distress, the chatting with the sweet young waitress (played with charm by Addison Timlin) — it's all a lot of fun, and throughout what makes it work is the absolute pleasure of watching two brilliant screen actors, Pacino and Walken, demonstrate how the pros do it. And that we always know it is leading to something.

Pacino makes Val coarse and polished at the same time, a guy who goes balls to the wall for everything. Walken is restrained, with a tsunami of emotion just below the surface, seeming ready to explode at any moment. Together, these old pals know what's what, they know what to do.

Kudos to director Fisher Stevens, who conducts this script and these actors with bravura artisanship.

A crafty aspect of Haidle's script is that the end could easily go two or three different ways. It's close to predictable, sure ... but we don't know, for sure, till the very last minute.

Fine work.

Stand Up Men
Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Katheryn Winnick and Alan Arkin in "Stand Up Guys."
Stand Up Men
Christopher Walken, Vanessa Ferlito, Alan Arkin and Al Pacino in "Stand Up Guys."


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