When Valentine (Al Pacino) is freed from prison after 28 years, he finds his best friend Doc (Christopher Walken) there to pick him up. What he doesn’t realize is that Doc has also been charged with killing him, as payback for a wrong incurred during the hold-up that got Val sent away all those years ago.
Once he’s out however, Val turns his last day into a real hurrah, and drags Doc along with him. Now Doc is left with a choice to make. Should he kill his best friend? Or embrace this new carpe diem sentiment and get back into the game of life?
Doc and Valentine are two old wise guys who go way back. Nearly three decades ago, Valentine (Al Pacino) got pinched after a robbery gone wrong. He never ratted, and wound up doing 28 years. But the head of the mob, “Claphands”, wants Val taken out for the things that went wrong, and he’s charged Doc (Christopher Walken) with doing the deed.
Doc takes Valentine around town, showing him a good time, initially under the pretenses of getting Val to lower his guard so that he can do the deed. But eventually, Val’s enthusiasm starts to win him over. Doc has been retired and living the easy life for too long, and this reckless abandon that Val is showing is getting his blood pumping again. Together they rob stores, square off against much younger mob guys, hook up with hookers, steal a car, and eventually, break their buddy (Alan Arkin) out of his nursing home.
All the while though, the clock is ticking towards Doc’s deadline for doing away with Val.
It’s a geriatric gangster film, with a touch of heart and some fun comedy. From what I see, reviews are poor, but once again I’ll step out on a limb and defend a poorly reviewed movie. Essentially, the plot is a bit contrived, there are elements that come into play that certainly fall into the “Yeah, right”, category, including one mildly regrettable subplot where they help a wronged woman get revenge. But for the most part, “Stand Up Guys” is a movie about men who are aware that they’re close to the end of their lives, making decisions based on the fact that no one is there for them or cares for them, so why not live it up in their last few days?
So while other critics will probably harp on some of the more unfeasible elements of the plot, I’m going to hang my hat on the characters and the actors and say I really, really enjoyed this film. Walken, Pacino and Arkin all have their moments where they’ll make you laugh, or make you sympathize with them. Once the three of them get going on their hijinks, it’ll be hard not to smile, and once they experience some of the consequences of their actions (both from that night and from their lives), it’ll be hard not to grimace a little. It’s a nice mix, though, of fun and feeling, and it features three great actors having a good time, acting their age by playing three guys who don’t want to act their age.
There’s plenty of script issues to go ’round if someone is looking for them, but for me, “Stand Up Guys” was a very, very enjoyable movie about three aging mobsters who throw caution to the wind, with a tale of a man with a Cain and Abel decision to make thrown into the mix as well.