Movies: "Stand Up Guys" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Stand Up Guys"
Movies: "Stand Up Guys"


Like the undead rising from the grave, some of Hollywood’s superannuated stars are lumbering back to the big screen.  


There’s Sylvester Stallone, still violent after all these years in “Bullet to the Head.”  Arnold Schwarzenegger playing an unlikely southwestern sheriff in “The Last Stand.”  And Bruce Willis is on deck with yet another “Die Hard” venture, set in Moscow.


But for my money, the best aging action heroes are Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin, currently on view in “Stand Up Guys.”  The big difference is that these fellows are real actors.


Written by Noah Haidle, who has a short list of movie shorts on his resume, and directed by Fisher Stevens, an actor/director with a long list of TV shows on his, “Stand Up Guys” is not much to look at.  It takes place over 24 hours in some indistinguishable city, and most of it is shot (by Michael Grady) indoors:  a shabby apartment, a diner, a warehouse, a nursing home and a cozy suburban brothel.  Not exactly a big budget picture.


But forget that.  What we have here is a high-level acting class, taught by some of the best in the business, with appealing support from a trio of warm, charming women:  Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife”), Lucy Punch (“Bad Teacher”) and Addison Timlin (“Derailed”).  Plus we have veteran bad guy Mark Margolis (Tia Salamanca in “Breaking Bad”) as a despicable character named Claphands.


Just to give you a few basics, the movie starts with Val (Pacino) getting out of prison after a 28-year jolt.  There to meet him is his old crime partner Doc (Walken), who has been ordered by Claphands to bump off his buddy by the next morning.  Before long, the two of them have visited the brothel, ripped off a pharmacy (Doc helps himself to a long list of prescription drugs because his co-pay is so high), gone to the hospital for an unexpected priapism, stolen a flashy muscle car and added a third member to the crew, their old pal Hirsch (Arkin).


The movie takes some twists and turns from there, accompanied by a terrific music score, featuring a lot of R&B and some songs by Jon Bon Jovi, who worked on the score with music director Lyle Workman.  


Pacino plays it low-key this time around, rasping out his lines without the customary flying spittle.  Walken is as clever as ever, his odd enunciation and occasional dance moves still surprising and strong.  And Arkin is delightful as the getaway driver, flummoxed by new car technology.  “It’s like the future,” he notes.  


The warmth of these three old hoods’ relationship is enhanced by the sympathetic women they meet along the way, including the brothel madam (Punch), a diner waitress (Timlin), a tough cookie (Vanessa Ferlito) they happen upon, and professional dancer Courtney Galiano, who shares a slow dance with Val in one touching scene.


“Stand Up Guys” is rated R for language, some sexual humor and low-wattage violence.  It’s funny and moving, with three great actors in charge and I give it a B-Plus.