Fisher Stevens, best known to those of a certain generation for his racially suspicious portrayal of Indian scientist, Ben in Short Circuit, marks his debut directorial effort with Stand Up Guys, a comedy drama about a trio of aging stickup men. The film follows Al Pacino's Val as he is released from prison after 28 years and reunites with old pals, Doc (Christonpher Walken) and Hirsh (Alan Arkin). The three men set off for a wild night on the town, but it's not long until Doc reveals that he has one last assignment: to kill his old partner before sunrise.
While intermittingly entertaining, Stand Up Guys suffers from something of an identity crisis, with its tone struggling to settle between the action comedy of Midnight Run and the dark humour of Goodfellas, whilst occasionally descending into sub-Farrelly brothers gags about persistent erections. However, any film that manages to assemble such a high calibre, leading trio is worth investigation, and Pacino's performance, whilst up against some pretty lousy competition, is undoubtedly his best in years. However, there is a sense that the actors playing up to their caricatures, and one scene in particular answers the old question of what Al Pacino would look like doing an impression of Al Pacino. Badly. Despite the fact that Walken's trademark disregard for punctuation is more prevalent than ever, he has developed a veneer of quiet wisdom in his old age and offers a thoughtful performance with some much needed nuance.
While the film's structure is incoherent and rambling, there is some respite in the dialogue-heavy diner scenes in which our three leads reminisce about the Golden Age of organised crime. These moments are surprisingly engaging and Stand Up Guys works best when Stevens gives his veteran leads the space to perform. Sadly, these isolated moments are lost amid the director's attempts to subvert and modernise with Hangover-esque crassness. Further problems arise from first-time writer, Noah Haidle's screenplay, which is turgid and tonally inconsistent.The inexperience of the filmmakers in palpable and the tone is hard to pin down, but Stand Up Guys is partially saved by a central trio who, whilst they are not on top form, are always fun to watch.
★★☆☆☆Suggest a correction