You know how radio stations host those all-day concerts, where 30 acts show up and each play their one big hit song? The cinematic equivalent to that would be “Stand Up Guys,” in which Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin pop up to do exactly what we would expect them to do.
Granted, Pacino’s Pacino, Walken’s Walken and Arkin’s Arkin are entertaining and impressive, but the film provides them with little to do but recreate their finest moments in other movies. If you’re in the mood for a greatest-hits album of contemporary movie acting, you could do worse than this breezy but inconsequential comedy about aging Mafiosi out for one last spree.
The film begins with Val (Pacino) getting out of jail after a lengthy stint, with his best pal Doc (Walken) there to meet him outside the gate. Doc drives Val into the city, where Viagra is consumed, whores are mongered and adult beverages are consumed. Underlying all of this is the film’s only element of dramatic tension: Will Doc kill Val, as the big boss has demanded, or will Doc turn the tables?
As we wait to see how that will unfold, there are other adventures, including the springing of former getaway driver Hirsch (Arkin) from his nursing home, and a mission of vengeance on behalf of Sylvia (Vanessa Ferlito plays the closest thing this film has to a three-dimensional woman), who has been assaulted by some unsavory characters.
It’s a movie full of trailer moments — Val convinces a reticent young woman to dance with him, the oldsters put the beat-down on Sylvia’s attackers, Doc has a sweet but oddly Walken-ish rapport with a waitress, Arkin gets to drive a sportscar really fast — that don’t particularly add up to a whole movie; were it not for the three stars, it’s hard to imagine this script (by first-timer Noah Haidle) making it out of any producer’s slush pile.
But we do have those stars, and director Fisher Stevens puts them through their paces and relies heavily on their star power and their chemistry to make “Stand Up Guys” come together. Ultimately, it’s the collective impact that the leads have together that’s more impressive than anyone’s individual achievements; Walken’s work here is barely a patch on his recent bravura performance in “Seven Psychopaths,” and the same goes for Arkin and “Argo.”
There’s an old Roger Ebert line where he asks if the movie is more interesting than a documentary about the film’s stars eating lunch, and one suspects that 90 minutes spent with this cast (which also includes Julianna Margulies and Lucy Punch) over sandwiches would provide a more substantial result.
But if you’re in the mood to see a movie — any movie — featuring Pacino, Walken and Arkin, well…here it is.