Stand Up Guys Movie Review

If you want to watch a dark comedy movie starring classic actors, Stand Up Guys may be a viable option. Is this film as good as other movies starring these lead actors? Let’s discuss it!

Stand Up Guys Movie Review

Stand Up Guys was originally theatrically released in 2012. The movie stars a-list classic actors, namely Christopher Walken, Al Pacino, and Alan Arkin. Pacino plays Val, a character who is newly released from prison on parole.

Released into the world, Val reunites with his friends and former partners in crime Doc (Walken) and Richard (Arkin). However, this reunion is soured when Doc is hired to kill Val.

Directed by Fisher Stevens, this star-studded cast also includes Julianna Margulies, Lucy Punch, and Mark Margolis.

To be honest, we had a mixed response to this comedy movie. This is why:

Our Review

The Good

One cannot deny that these leading actors are incredibly dynamic. Pacino, Walken, and Arkin have all built brilliant careers from their charismatic performances. 

Walken is a particular stand out in the cast. Though he has delivered some of cinema’s most iconic performances in films such as Catch Me If You Can, The Anderson Tapes, and The Deer Hunter, Walken has also starred in a few duds.

So it’s nice to see Walken returning to top form here, offering a sentimental yet tough performance.

Likewise, this is one of Pacino’s top performances in a long while. Panico’s career has been littered with critical acclaim and awards thanks to movies like The Godfather, Serpico, and Scent of a Woman.

Like Walken, Pacino was experiencing a bit of a career lull around this time so his charismatic performance is commendable, even if it is a little sillier than some of his more iconic roles.

We also love some of the themes explored here. This sentimental flick takes a look at ageism, especially within the gangster world.

The result is a surprisingly tender exploration of how older people are viewed, which is a great theme for these seasoned actors to focus on.

The Bad

Arkin feels a little wasted here. He is given equal billing as Pacino and Walken, though his role is significantly smaller than both of these actors. It feels as though Arkin’s extraordinary acting talents have been completely wasted by this movie. 

Moreover, the film relies too heavily on the acting talents of its cast. The script and direction are weak. One could argue that room is intentionally given for these experienced actors to work their magic.

Yet, it comes across as though the writers could not be bothered to come up with writing with any significant substance.

The tone feels all over the place, thanks to a splattering of comedy and pessimism. It’s unclear whether Stand Up Guys is trying to be optimistic or pessimistic about old age.

The screenplay leans towards the negative side, while the themes of the film show that these old gangsters still have a life even in old age. The result is a conflicted message and uneven tone.

At times, Stand Up Guys feels like it slots into all of the cliches associated with ‘70s action movies. Though some of these tropes are subverted, Noah Haidle’s uninspired screenplay often reinforces them. 

The film is meant to be a homage to these films, but it often feels like it’s more of a parody thanks to the inconsistent writing. Luckily, the performances shine through this lazy writing and prevent Stand Up Guys from being a satire.

Should You Watch Stand Up Guys?

If you are a fan of dark comedy, you may appreciate Stand Up Guys. It contains numerous instances of dark humor, especially relating to age and sex.

Moreover, if you adore the acting talent of Pacino and Walken, this film is a terrific treat. It’s also a perfect match for fans of ‘70s crime films. 

This film will not be suitable for younger viewers. It presents some serious themes and has some mature content, such as a plot involving prostitution and viagra. 

Stand Up Guys is best suited to older viewers not only because of the presence of violence and sex but also because of the more mature themes. Many younger viewers may find this to be a tedious experience.

Plus, this film won’t be for everyone. If you aren’t a fan of serious themes mixed with humor that’s often brainless, this film might not be for you.

Final Thoughts

Stand Up Guys is entirely carried by its experienced cast. In particular, Pacino and Walken deliver fantastic performances. These roles highlight that they are still brimming with talent, even if they are toward the end of their careers.

Unfortunately, the disappointing directing and script mean that this dark comedy does not always land the way it’s supposed to.
We give Stand Up Guys 2 out of 5 stars.

If you liked this article, you might enjoy our post, ‘August: Osage County Movie Review‘.

Max Roberts