Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Stand Up Guys

Illustration for article titled Stand Up Guys

Late in Stand Up Guys, the recently paroled Al Pacino and his best friend and partner-in-crime Christopher Walken head up to a drug-and-gun-filled apartment to avenge the brutal gang rape of a woman (Vanessa Ferlito) they found bound, gagged, and naked in the trunk of a car they recently stole. Decency would dictate that this sequence be handled with gravity, restraint, and sensitivity. Instead, the film treats the sequence, like seemingly everything else around it, as glib, pandering, crowd-pleasing comedy that ends with Ferlito gleefully taking a baseball bat to the crotches of all the men who abused her. There’s no subject matter so heavy, traumatic, or serious that the film can’t laugh it off in the same smirky, cutesy manner it uses to address Pacino’s early misadventures overusing erectile-dysfunction medication. Viagra jokes in 2013? The leads here aren’t the only element of the film that’s past its prime.

A hammier-than-usual Pacino, in full-on Scent Of A Woman “Hooah!” mode, stars as a small-time criminal  released from prison after serving 28 years for a botched job that resulted in the death of a powerful mob boss’ son.  The mobster is so obsessed with revenge that he refrains from killing Walken—who was on the same job—solely so he can pressure Walken into killing Pacino as soon as the latter leaves prison. Walken picks up Pacino from the pokey and treats him to a night filled with the kitschy spectacle of old people doing historically young-people things: stealing a glam car, having sex with multiple prostitutes (Stand Up Guys features three separate trips to a whorehouse), dramatically waving big guns around. Alan Arkin rounds out the supremely overqualified cast as a former wheelman giddy to be freed from a nursing home and taken for a night of geriatric debauchery. In spite of early gags about all the medication Walken is on, whenever circumstances call for it, Walken, Pacino, and Arkin suddenly develop the reflexes, quickness, and strength of prime MMA fighters.

The grotesquely overstuffed plot prominently involves gang rape, abduction, and death both natural and unnatural, but nothing compromises its unbearable lightness. When Pacino gleans early on that Walken has been tasked with killing him, and treats the possibility of his violent death at his best friend’s hands with a half-hearted shrug of resignation, why should audiences be any more invested in his fate? Stand Up Guys is the sitcom Mikey & Nicky no one asked for. In spite of its stars’ age, its asinine macho wish-fulfillment fantasies are patently juvenile.