Movie review – Stand Up Guys: Just like old times?.?.?.

2013-06-09 14:00

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A first-timer’s film script shines like a gem thanks to the experience of the three lead actors, who have so far made 276 films between them, writes Gayle Edmunds.

Film: Stand Up Guys (Nu Metro)

Director: Fisher Stevens

Featuring: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin and Lucy Punch

Rating: 7/10

This flick has the same nostalgia value as the likes of Space Cowboys and Red.

It has the same proportion of humour and drama, and it’s a great treat to see three seasoned performers working with what is a fine script, teeming with delightfully wicked one-liners.

Stand Up Guys is about a trio of guys, three decades on from their heyday as gangsters, who are reunited when one gets out of prison after serving a 28-year sentence for being a “stand up guy”.

Al Pacino is that guy, Val, who goes to stay with his best pal, Doc (Christopher Walken), who was also in his gang of thieves.

But their reunion is not what it seems.

Director Fisher Stevens and debut writer Noah Haidle flip this story in one easy frame from two old guys catching up on oldtimes to two friends facing a vendetta that should be long dead.

As the saying goes, revenge is a dish best served cold.

And this dish is 30 years cold.

Val and Doc embark on a night of partying – beginning with a hilarious visit to a brothel run by Wendy (Lucy Punch), which necessitates a pharmacy break-in, which culminates in a hospital visit and eventually ends up with them breaking their third musketeer Hirsch (Alan Arkin) out of an old age home to join in the final fling.

There’s a lot to laugh at, but it is bittersweet laughter, because this story doesn’t glamorise criminality.

These old boys might seem harmless and elicit sympathy now, but their own families have long since given up on them.

Doc lives alone in a home that Val calls worse than the place he’s just come from, and Val has no one to call but Doc when he gets out.

Of the three, Hirsch is the only one with a functioning family.

This is a cast of award-winners – all three have taken home an Oscar for acting: Pacino for Scent of a Woman, Walken for The Deer Hunter and Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine.

Director Stevens, too, shared an Oscar for producing the blood-soaked documentary, The Cove, about the fate of dolphins in Japan. And this collective experience shines through this fresh scriptwriter’s work.

Pacino and Walken haven’t worked together before on a film, but you’d never know it.

They have chemistry on screen and it’s impossible to imagine that they haven’t known each other since they were kids.

When Arkin joins the reunion, it seems completely natural that he’s also known them since boyhood. Punch holds her own in such august company.

Writer Haidle is a playwright with only a pair of short films to his name, but this marks an accomplished film-writing debut.

His play, Saturn Returns, is strongly character driven, as is this piece; and he works the advantage of understanding theatre’s intimacy in this production.

Tightly written and expertly acted, this film should entice lovers of good films. It is a rarity in a youth-market-oriented industry, so enjoy.

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