It’s hard watching your idols get older; to see them become gradually more and more human from the iconic pillars they once were. The important thing is to see them handle it with grace and good humor, and avoid the desperate attempts to hold back Father Time. Stand Up Guys is basically this message about all three of its primary cast, Arkin, Pacino and Walken. And while it may sometimes edge somewhat on the side of being too corny and schmaltzy, there is also a delightful interlude of dark humor to bring it back to earth again.
Val (Pacino) has spent 28 years in prison after taking the rap after a gunfight involving his previous gang. He holds no hard feelings, but the father of one of the accidental victims in that decades old firefight does, and has forced Val’s old friend Doc (Walken) to finish him off as soon as he is released. The entirety of the movie is basically spread over just 18 hours, from the time of Val’s release, to the point at which Doc was instructed to have killed him by. The two, old men now, with a different perspective on life, team up to break their friend Hirsch (Arkin) out of his old age home, and live as full a night as they can together.
The presence of so many veteran actors is appreciated, as their skills are used to show the best kind of understatement. From looks in the eye to movements to random facial expressions; the viewer can really understand where these people are coming from. All have lifetimes full of mistakes, some more than others. But for now, they’re with the only friends they have, and to be sad is to waste what little time they have left together. It’s a form of defeatism that is taken as a positive, they have nothing left to fear at this point, except to not do anything.
With dialogue that is witty without being over the top, and several quick gunfights, Stand Up Guys is a more peaceful movie overall, but not bad for it, and is best watched with fans of these actors. It can be a rather pleasant way to spend an evening, and there is very little actually complain about in this movie, even if it isn’t the best movie of all time, but rather just an acceptably nice one.