Friday, February 1, 2013

Stand Up Guys - a lot of fun

Stand Up Guys, Which opens today in Denver is pure entertainment. There are under lying themes of family, friendship, love, loyalty and living by a code - whatever that code may be - but in the end this is laugh-out-loud funny and entertaining.

The film stars Al Pacino (can Pacino get any scruffier looking) as Val, Christopher Walken as Doc and Alan Arkin as Hirsch, three aging ‘bad guys’ who through a series of circumstances are reunited for a night of shoot-outs, robberies, car-theft, car-chases, debauchery (Pacino’s character consumes an entire bottle of Viagra, which a brothel madam calls ‘boner pills’) and Galahad-like chivalry.

These are three terrific actors - though I am happy to see Walken play a bit understated; his character is slow and quiet, instead of his often over the top performances. The three actors, who have never appeared together in a film, are what make this film so enjoyable.

Val has just been released from prison, after 28 years, for a crime he likely did not commit, but, as he says, he served his time and kept his mouth shut.

He is picked up outside the prison gate by his long-time friend, Doc, who it turns out is being pressured to kill Val. Doc has until 10 AM the following morning to accomplish this or suffer some very dire consequences. Will he? Won’t he? You have to get to the end of the picture to find out.

Val says he wants to party (he has been in prison for 28 years after all) and so they do, though Doc is a reluctant participant, often just a bystander.

There is a wonderful scene in a disco (do they still call those kind of clubs discos?) in which Pacino pays the DJ to play a slow song (“oh, one of those old time songs”) and persuades an attractive young woman to dance with him. It is so reminiscent of the tango scene in Scent of a Woman as Pacino (Val) gracefully swings the young woman out onto the dance floor.

The film evolves over the next few cinematic hours as Val and Doc hook up with Hirsch, their former getaway car driver, rescuing him from a nursing home. They make a return trip to the brothel, steal a car, get involved in a car chase (Hirsch still has his chops as a driver) confront some bad guys (not stand up guys at all) and save a woman.

The ending and some events that lead up to it are a bit contrived, some of the jokes are obvious and telegraphed but funny nonetheless and there is a some necessary willing suspension of disbelief with this film but don’t worry about making sense of it, just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Stand Up Guys from Lionsgate, is directed by Fisher Stevens and written by Noah Haidle. It previously played in Denver at the Starz Denver Film Festival last November.

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