Title: Stand Up Guys
HTS Overall Score:69.5
Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin are big-name actors that have delivered significant performances in great films: Scarface, The Deer Hunter, and Little Miss Sunshine quickly come to mind (and there’s many more). Who can forget watching Pacino torch the Baird School with a brutal monologue in Scent of a Woman, or Walken’s delivery of a watch to a young Butch Coolidge in Pulp Fiction? Those are classic cinematic moments. Getting these three actors together in one film should make for a sure-shot evening of entertainment. After all, what could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, a lot.
Stand Up Guys is meant to be a dark comedy with sprinkles of drama and action. It suffers greatly, though, at the hands of a meandering storyline that moves with relatively little urgency. Its dialog is tired and somewhat uninteresting and many of its situational moments lack basic plausibility. If Cocoon and Goodfellas were put in a blender, Stand Up Guys is what you’d get: Three geriatric tough-guys rejoining forces for one last night of sex, drugs, theft and violence. But these aren’t just former bad-dudes with walkers, they fully embrace the stand up guy traits of being sentimental, reliable, valorous and loyal. Which is odd because they also embrace breaking the law, visiting brothels, and running from the police.
In the film Christopher Walken plays “Doc.” He’s in his retirement years spending his days dining at the Bright Spot Cafe and perfecting his hand at painting. As we come to learn, Doc has been passing his time waiting for his close friend and former criminal colleague, Val (Al Pacino), to be released from a 28 year prison sentence. We also learn that Doc has been ordered by a mob boss named Claphands (Mark Margolis) to kill Val as retribution for his son’s death. Doc’s primary struggle – which is the main storyline of the movie – is whether or not he should pull the trigger and kill his friend.
It turns out that Val is a true stand up guy and undeserving of his mark for death. His prison sentence was for a crime he, Doc, and others had committed. Val makes it clear that ratting-out his friends was never an option. With his time served, Val is on the loose and he’s ready to party. Doc picks him up at the prison begins to serve a dual role as friend and ATM machine. As his first day of freedom unfolds Val shows he is both a classy and pitiful person. He likes fine suits, isn’t above taking swigs of aftershave, is loaded with loyalty, and willing to snort prescription medications in public.
The film itself is linear by nature with very little plot deviation. Val and Doc visit a brothel, drink, and steal prescription medications. Doc frets over having to kill his friend. They then bust their good friend and former partner, Hirsch (Alan Arkin), out of a nursing home and go for a joy ride. Doc frets over having to kill his friend. They return to the brothel and party some more. Doc frets over having to kill his friend. And so it goes. Many of the situations are meant to be humorous, such as Doc and Val calmly standing in a pharmacy they’ve burglarized complaining about medication co-pays and all of the Doc’s medical ailments, but they often come across as downright ridiculous. And the characters all too often find themselves in situations that are unrealistically convenient. Need a suit? Break into a store and take your time finding one. A friend dies? Why not have a midnight run to a cemetery and use a backhoe to bury him?
Of the three stars, Walken holds-up his end of the bargin the best. There’s something about his way of delivering lines that makes them interesting no matter what the content. Pacino and Arkin, however, both looked tired and old. They deliver seen-it-before performances and do little to give their characters any uniqueness or interest. A bright spot in the film are the two performances delivered by supporting actresses Addison Timlin and Vanessa Ferlito. Timlin plays a young waitress named “Alex” at the Bright Spot Cafe and Ferlito plays a nurse at the local hospital (which is amusing because it's as if Nurse Carol Hathaway from ER simply stayed on set waiting for this movie to roll-in). At the end of the day the film has simply too much to overcome to be good. Thankfully, if you watch it you’ll only lose about an hour and half of time.
Rated R for Language, Brief Drug Use, Sexual Content, Violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/SUG3.jpg[/img]Lionsgate Films presents Stand Up Guys with a beautiful 2.40:1 AVC-MPEG4 encode. The overall image of the film is driven by crisp colors with a slight brownish tint. Contrast is excellent and shadow detail is superb without any evidence of crush. This is important because a large segment of the film takes place at night. Flesh tones are very natural. A true highlight of the transfer comes in the amazing amount of detail it displays. A jaw-dropping amount to be exact. The movie relies heavily on close-ups and these expose details such as wrinkles and hairs to an incredible degree. At times almost too many features on the actors’ aging faces are revealed. Other details in the film are equally pronounced. I even noticed moments where small pieces of lint could be seen floating around the actors.
All-in-all the image is fantastic and greatly benefits the film.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/SUG4.jpg[/img]A failing of the release is its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation. A vast majority of the film has a forward sound with minimized surround activity. Unfortunately the sound stage is generally narrow and much of the movie’s ambient sounds appear to be centered in the front. There are a few moments where music expands in the front and bleeds to the rear channels. There are numerous opportunities where the surrounds could have been used and simply weren’t (or weren’t used in an effective manner). Dialog is clear and centered – nothing to complain about in that department. As for LFE, it is used rather effectively to capture the powerful revving engine of a Dodge Challenger during a chase. Otherwise LFE is sparse. One would have hoped for a better sound package to be paired with the Blu-ray’s excellent video presentation.
• Director Commentary
• The Lowdown on Making Stand Up Guys
• The Stand Up Songs of Jon Bon Jovi
• American Muscle: The Stand UP Stunt Driving Scenes
• Deleted Scenes
Stand Up Guys is a disappointing film. The storyline is rather dull and one dimensional and the acting is average at best. We’ve seen these characters before, just this time they’re older guys reliving their wise guy pasts. I honestly don’t believe I could sit through another viewing of this film and I rarely feel that way about a movie. The Blu-ray presentation is helped by an incredibly detailed video image while weighed down by an average audio offering. Its at this point that critiquing a release becomes difficult because there is almost assuredly a group of fans that will find a treasure within this mess of movie. That being said it’s nearly impossible for me to recommend Stand Up Guys as a blind buy, let alone a rental. I guess if you are a die-hard fan of one of the three stars you might consider giving it a shot. Otherwise, I’d pass on this film for something better. I’m sure you’d find one of their classic films much more satisfying.
Starring: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin
Directed by: Fisher Stevens
Written by: Noah Haidle
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Lionsgate Films
Runtime: 95 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: May 21, 2013
Buy Stand Up Guys Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Probably a pass, a weak recommendation for a rental at the very best