DVD+Digital: Ex-cons, Viagra jokes and Stand Up Guys | Arts
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Thursday, May 23, 2013

DVD+Digital: Ex-cons, Viagra jokes and Stand Up Guys

Posted by on Thu, May 23, 2013 at 4:42 PM

Slight, shaggy and sentimental, the crime comedy Stand Up Guys has exactly three virtues to recommend it.

Those would be the film's trio of lead actors: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin. Nobody's gunning for glory with the performances here, but nobody phones it in, either. Anyway, these three could make a 90-minute film talking about the U.S. Tax Code and still be interesting.

Pacino headlines as Val, a career criminal just getting out of the joint after a 28-year stint. Val took the fall for his crew after a botched robbery and ended up doing the heavy time by refusing to rat on his friends. He is, as they say, a stand up guy.

Walken plays one of those old pals, a now-retired thief who goes by the name of Doc. When Val gets out of prison, it's Doc that comes to pick him up and take him out on the town. Understandably, Val is ready to party. So Doc dutifully escorts him to a bar, then a brothel, then a hospital. The 70-something Val, it seems, can't quite party like he used to.

There's another complication: Doc has been ordered by the local mafia don to kill his old friend Val. Doc doesn't want to, but he's on the hook — either Val goes into a shallow grave, or Doc does.

Stand Up Guys picks up a head of steam when Val and Doc drop by the nursing home to jailbreak the third member of the old crew, getaway driver Hirsch (Alan Arkin). Pacino and Walken have a good time together, but Arkin takes things to another level in his too-short screen time.

Alas, the guys behind the camera can't quite keep up with the guys in front. Actor-turned-director Fisher Stevens never shapes the film into anything beyond its premise of three codger wiseguys and their last big adventure. And the script, from rookie writer Noah Haidle, is shot through with Screenwriting 101 cliches and too-stagey scenes.

Yet Arkin, Pacino and Walken still manage to elevate it all, just by riffing on their own established screen personae. Pacino shows an admirable willingness to engage in broad humor concerning bad hips and Viagra. Walken is such an effortless comic performer that he can get laughs just by blinking those ancient lizard eyes of his.

The film also has an interesting 1970s veneer, reflected in the art design, music and some truly odd choices in the costuming and props department. The story is set in the present day, in a generic big city, but all the clothing and technology appears to have been dialed back about 40 years. When a critical call has to be made, the boys use a coin-operated payphone. With a radial dial. Younger readers may want to look up these terms.

Stand Up Guys is entirely adequate for an evening of home entertainment, but it's mostly interesting as a kind of All Star exhibition of three ginormous American film actors. Extras include a director's commentary track, deleted scenes and three production featurettes.

Also New This Week:

For your show-binging queue, True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season is the latest installment of HBO's supernatural series, with the usual assortment of in-depth extras.

For you comedy nerds, the PBS American Masters special Mel Brooks: Make A Noise profiles the impossibly prolific writer and director of Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety, Young Frankenstein and The Producers.

Look for the Blu-ray debuts of Howl's Moving Castle and My Neighbor Totoro from Japanase animation guru Hayao Miyazaki.

Plus:

The ABCs of Death, A Common Man, Beautiful Creatures, The Last Stand and Open Road

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