Plot twists handcuff 'Stand Up Guys' Pacino, Arkin

05:00 AM, Jan 31, 2013

Christopher Walken, from, left, Alan Arkin and Al Pacino find their talents wasted in the sweet but hapless 'Stand Up Guys.' Roadside Attractions/


Written By by Scott Bowles, USA TODAY

It’s been a long time since a movie wasted as much talent as Stand Up Guys, a film that aims to be a geezer Goodfellas but whose execution is a misfire.

Consider the cast: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin, all of whom own Oscar statuettes (and Arkin is up for another this year for his supporting role in Argo).

Yet only Walken gets to shine in this sweet but hapless crime story (*½ out of four; rated R; opens nationwide Friday). Arkin has a bit part, Pacino a bloated one. And even with a solid acting crew backing up the trio, Guys can’t help but freight them with clichéd turns, throwaway car chases and shootouts that wouldn’t pass muster in a film school final.

That’s a shame, because Guys flirts with a tantalizing premise and begins brilliantly.

Pacino plays Valentine, an ex-con leaving prison after 28 years for murder (an accident, the film explains — these chummy criminals would never intentionally whack someone). The film opens with Doc (Walken) waiting outside the prison for his buddy, who will stay at Doc’s tiny, cluttered apartment.

The early scenes are moving as the men try to maintain their machismo while not betraying their love for each other. More promising: We learn that Doc has a final job before he retires. He’s ordered to kill Valentine in retribution for the murder of the son of another gangster, Claphands (Mark Margolis, who was masterful as a Mexican cartel leader in Breaking Bad).

But Guys loses plausibility faster than a Gatling gun loses bullets.

Instead of sticking with that promising story line, director Fisher Stevens (a former documentary short-film maker and TV director) overloads the film with plot twists.

In the span of an evening, our heroes steal a car, avenge the assault of a woman, rob a liquor store owner, hit a brothel, bust Hirsch (Arkin) out of a nursing home and reconnect with women they let slip from their lives.

Oh, yeah, and there’s that gangster who wants Valentine dead.

It’s too much for a 94-minute film, even with the pedigree of the cast, particularly when the script has Pacino and Arkin clowning for easy laughs.

When we meet Hirsch, he’s breathing through an oxygen tank and moving at a glacial pace. Five minutes later, he’s outrunning cops and impressing prostitutes with his bedroom skills.

Pacino, especially, is pressed to play jester. As the reprobate of the group, he crushes and snorts hypertension medicine like cocaine. He overdoses on erectile dysfunction pills, turning him into a sight gag. Since his turn in 2002’s solid Christopher Nolan drama Insomnia, directors seem bent on making him an over-the-top protagonist.

The standout here is Walken, who remains one of Hollywood’s hippest seniors. He’ll turn 70 next month, but his lilting voice and basset-hound eyes are as touching and heartbreaking as they were when he paired with Robert De Niro in 1978’sThe Deer Hunter. The guy can hike his pants to his sternum and he’s still the coolest cat on-screen.

Alas, he’s no match for the film’s antics, which include a shameless plug for Dodge. And scenes meant to establish a bond between renegades in their twilight come off more like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Grandpa.

The actors clearly are having a good time riffing off one another. Audiences might not feel so lucky.

It’s been a long time since a movie wasted as much talent as Stand Up Guys (1.5 stars), a film that aims to be a geezer Goodfellas but whose execution is a misfire.

Consider the cast: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin, all of whom own Oscar statues (and Arkin is up for another this year for Argo).

Yet only Walken gets to shine in this sweet but hapless crime story. Arkin has a bit part, Pacino a bloated one. And even with a solid acting crew backing the trio up, Guys can’t help but freight them with cliched turns, throwaway car chases and shoot outs that wouldn’t pass muster in a film school final.

That’s a shame, because Guys flirts with a tantalizing premise and begins brilliantly.

Pacino plays Valentine, an ex-con leaving prison after 28 years for murder (an accident, the film explains: these chummy criminals would never intentionally whack someone). The film opens with Doc (Walken) waiting outside the prison for his buddy, who will stay at Doc’s tiny, cluttered apartment.

The early scenes are moving as the men try to maintain their machismo while not betraying their love for each other. More promising: We learn that Doc has a final job before he retires. He’s ordered to kill Valentine in retribution for the murder of the son of another gangster, Claphands (Mark Margolis, who was masterful as a Mexican cartel leader in Breaking Bad).

But Guys loses plausibility faster than a Gatling gun loses bullets.

Instead of sticking with that promising storyline, director Fisher Stevens (a former documentary short filmmaker and TV director) overloads the film with plot twists.

In the span of an evening, our heroes steal a car, avenge the assault of a woman, rob a liquor store owner, hit a brothel, bust Hirsch (Arkin) out of a nursing home and reconnect with women they let slip from their lives.

Oh yeah, and there’s that gangster who wants Valentine dead.

It’s too much for a 94-minute film, even with the pedigree of the cast, particularly when the script has Pacino and Arkin clowning for easy laughs.

When we meet Hirsch, he’s breathing through an oxygen tank and moving at a glacial pace. Five minutes later, he’s outrunning cops and impressing prostitutes with his bedroom skills.

Pacino, especially, is pressed to play jester. As the reprobate of the group, he crushes and snorts hypertension medicine like cocaine. He overdoses on erectile dysfunction pills, turning him into a sight gag. Since his turn in 2002’s solid Christopher Nolan drama Insomnia, directors seem bent on making him an over-the-top protagonist.

The standout here is Walken, who remains one of Hollywood’s hippest seniors. He’ll turn 70 next month, but his lilting voice and Basset Hound eyes are as touching and heartbreaking as they were when he paired with Robert DeNiro in 1978’s The Deer Hunter. The guy can hike his pants to his sternum and he’s still the coolest cat on screen.

Alas, he’s no match for the film’s antics, which includes a shameless plug for Dodge. And scenes meant to establish a bond between renegades in their twilight come off more like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Grandpa.

The trio clearly are having a good time riffing off one another. Audiences might not feel so lucky.

===

Stand Up Guys

1.5 stars out of 4

Stars: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin

Director: Fisher Stevens

Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Rating: R for language, sexual content, violence and brief drug use.

Distributor: Lionsgate

It’s been a long time since a movie wasted as much talent as Stand Up Guys (1.5 stars), a film that aims to be a geezer Goodfellas but whose execution is a misfire.

Consider the cast: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin, all of whom own Oscar statues (and Arkin is up for another this year for Argo).

Yet only Walken gets to shine in this sweet but hapless crime story. Arkin has a bit part, Pacino a bloated one. And even with a solid acting crew backing the trio up, Guys can’t help but freight them with cliched turns, throwaway car chases and shoot outs that wouldn’t pass muster in a film school final.

That’s a shame, because Guys flirts with a tantalizing premise and begins brilliantly.

Pacino plays Valentine, an ex-con leaving prison after 28 years for murder (an accident, the film explains: these chummy criminals would never intentionally whack someone). The film opens with Doc (Walken) waiting outside the prison for his buddy, who will stay at Doc’s tiny, cluttered apartment.

The early scenes are moving as the men try to maintain their machismo while not betraying their love for each other. More promising: We learn that Doc has a final job before he retires. He’s ordered to kill Valentine in retribution for the murder of the son of another gangster, Claphands (Mark Margolis, who was masterful as a Mexican cartel leader in Breaking Bad).

But Guys loses plausibility faster than a Gatling gun loses bullets.

Instead of sticking with that promising storyline, director Fisher Stevens (a former documentary short filmmaker and TV director) overloads the film with plot twists.

In the span of an evening, our heroes steal a car, avenge the assault of a woman, rob a liquor store owner, hit a brothel, bust Hirsch (Arkin) out of a nursing home and reconnect with women they let slip from their lives.

Oh yeah, and there’s that gangster who wants Valentine dead.

It’s too much for a 94-minute film, even with the pedigree of the cast, particularly when the script has Pacino and Arkin clowning for easy laughs.

When we meet Hirsch, he’s breathing through an oxygen tank and moving at a glacial pace. Five minutes later, he’s outrunning cops and impressing prostitutes with his bedroom skills.

Pacino, especially, is pressed to play jester. As the reprobate of the group, he crushes and snorts hypertension medicine like cocaine. He overdoses on erectile dysfunction pills, turning him into a sight gag. Since his turn in 2002’s solid Christopher Nolan drama Insomnia, directors seem bent on making him an over-the-top protagonist.

The standout here is Walken, who remains one of Hollywood’s hippest seniors. He’ll turn 70 next month, but his lilting voice and Basset Hound eyes are as touching and heartbreaking as they were when he paired with Robert DeNiro in 1978’s The Deer Hunter. The guy can hike his pants to his sternum and he’s still the coolest cat on screen.

Alas, he’s no match for the film’s antics, which includes a shameless plug for Dodge. And scenes meant to establish a bond between renegades in their twilight come off more like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Grandpa.

The trio clearly are having a good time riffing off one another. Audiences won’t feel so lucky.

===

Stand Up Guys

1.5 stars out of 4

Stars: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin

Director: Fisher Stevens

Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Rated R for language, sexual content, violence and brief drug use.

Distributor: Lionsgate

Opens nationwide Friday.