Stand Up Guys

| February 3, 2013

I love dese guys.

Stand Up Guys stars Academy Award® winners Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin in a surprisingly touching action comedy as three retired gangsters who reunite for one epic last night.

Val (Pacino) is released from prison after serving twenty-eight years for refusing to give up one of his closest associates.  His best friend Doc (Walken) is the only one waiting at the prison to pick him up. Very soon the two old buddies find their old driver and third member of the trio, Hirsch (Arkin).  Their bond is as strong as ever, and the three reflect on freedom lost and gained, the value and lasting meaning of loyalties ebbed and flowed, and days of glory gone by.  And despite their age, their capacity for mayhem remains very much alive and well – bullets fly as they make a hilariously valiant effort to compensate for the decades of crime, drugs and sex they’ve missed.

One of the friends holds a very dangerous secret. He’s been put in an impossible situation by their former mob boss, and his time to find an acceptable alternative is running out.  As the sun rises on the guys’ legendary reunion, their position becomes more and more desperate and they finally confront their past once and for all.

Stand Up Guys is a joy to watch. It has a few bumpy moments but overall it is still better than most of the stuff out there which passes for “story.” And considering the wealth of talent available in the 60-something crowd, I think this is also a very smart idea and a timely one for the current market. Christopher Walken, Al Pacino and Alan Arkin are truly acting titans. They’re the kind of actors who have no problem making any character their own, or even stealing the scene should the whim come upon them. But they are professionals and, just like the characters they play in the film, they live up to their code and deliver some of their best work in their careers.

I think director Fischer Stevens and his production crew made some smart choices in focusing on strong supporting talent, most especially in the very fine actresses whose presence helps to reveal some of the more subtle and silly aspects of these aged tough guys and their code of honor. Lucy Punch is the daughter of a well-known madam, still running Mom’s brothel after all these years and with a character and charm just as down-to-Earth and resilient as her mother, according to Walken. Julianna Margulies plays Hirsch’s daughter, an E.R. nurse who has seen it all and who is comfortable talking about the old days when these two tough guys bounced her on their knees, even across Val’s hospital bed which is tented due to a slight overdose of the ‘blue’ pill. And Vanessa Ferlito shows off her usual tough-but-beautiful exterior as a young woman they find in a trunk, stripped bare and tied up. They help her get revenge upon the animals who would treat a lady in such a way, including Craig Scheffer as one of the Jargoniew brothers; a family of violent thugs whose predilection for violence is legendary.

Everything in Stand Up Guys feels just right and I left the film feeling satisfied and upbeat, as though I had just had a short visit with some old friends and we parted in good spirits. There is a hint of sadness in the ending, but I think that says quite a bit for a film and its filmmakers when it can succeed in producing more than one emotion at a time from its audience. I recommend this film without reservation. It is a playful nostalgia trip and I hope it reaches the audience numbers it deserves.

Here’s the official trailer: Stand Up Guys.

For more info on this great gem, visit:

Official site:

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Stand Up Guys was produced by Lakeshore Entertainment and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and is being released by Lionsgate on February 1, 2013.

Do yourself a favor; see it!

About the Author:

Del Harvey is a co-founder of Film Monthly. He is an independent filmmaker, film director, screenwriter, and film teacher, currently living in Chicago.
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