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REVIEW: Stand Up Guys is In Bruges with bad Viagra jokes

By / 02.01.13

Excuse Me, Sir, Your Chemically-Induced Boner Needs Draining

Pacino and Walken. Walken and Pacino. If you want to know what’s great about Stand Up Guys, just look at this picture, which says it all. They have a natural chemistry, an indescribable watchability, that makes you wish they’d appear together in a movie that doesn’t require Pacino to get blood sucked out of his tumescent old boner. Yep, Stand Up Guys is that kind of movie. Dear Stand Up Guys Writers, CC: Hollywood: Not every movie about old guys needs a Viagra joke. Sincerely, Everyone. When Pacino started shoveling pills into his mouth while Walken cautioned, “Hey… VAL, maybe you… should slow DOWN a bit… those pills… are STRONG,” I thought to myself, “Ooh, the set up on this obvious joke is so labored, maybe they’re planning to flip the script on us!” Spoiler alert, they weren’t, and they didn’t, because this is a January movie. It’s like Pacino’s still trying to compete with DeNiro, who’s already old hat at boner stabbings after Ben Stiller stabbed his in Little Fockers. It makes you long for the days when DeNiro/Pacino was a Beatles/Beach Boys-esque rivalry that made them both better.

As you’ve gathered, Stand Up Guy‘s script is its achilles heel. Its achilles boner, say. We open with Christopher Walken (Doc) picking up Al Pacino (Val)  after a 28-year stint in the joint. The knock-around guys and former partners are each other’s only friends, making it that much sadder when we learn that Walken has been sent to kill Pacino, under penalty of death should he fail. Pacino knows he’s doomed, and they’ve got one last night together to make it count, which they do by banging hookers, boosting cars, and breaking Alan Arkin out of an old folk’s home. It’s sort of a poor man’s In Bruges. A poor, old man’s In Bruges, with bad Viagra jokes.

Stand Up Guys was directed by Fisher Stevens, also known as Johnny 5′s sidekick in Short Circuit, and it feels like he was trying to make In Bruges out of a Noah Haidle script that the studio wanted to be The Expendables. When it’s about melancholy old friends eking joy out of their last moments like the former, it’s great. When it’s an old guy action movie, it’s terrible. Stand Up Guys sings in its quieter moments, in the way that vintage Sopranos did, the appeal of watching salty old shit givers ball bust each other and try to understand the modern world. But it’s January, so you can bet every time the compelling melancholy of the Pacino/Arkin/Walken triumvirate threatens to turn Stand Up Guys into a real movie, the studio script note gang knocks down the door, clichés a-blazin’, leveling any human interest with hacky jokes and gold-hearted hookers.

Look out, you guys! These old salts are up to their salty old tricks again! These whipper snappers better watch out! Pacino and company are doing just fine stealing cars and breaking into pharmacies to steal hypertension meds, but for some reason, the script decides that our gang of 70-year-olds needs someone to beat up. Like, physically. But who?! Well, for that we have a rape victim who all but falls out of the sky. A rapeus ex machina, say. Now, I get that studios are starting to worry when their movies have no strong female characters these days, and the fact that they’re even noticing this is progress, albeit small. However, a rape victim seeking revenge is not only a lame substitute for the old damsel in distress, it’s a really creepy one. It feels like male screenwriters self-flagellating for their own evil impulses, the ol’ slap her around and then cry and apologize afterwards routine.

So anyway, now the gang has some evil rapers to fight, and what do they do? Well, they beat them up, of course. Remember when old guys used to rely on their wisdom and guile and life experience to put one over on the young scamps? These days, the old guys just punch the youngins in the face like some City Slickers fantasy camp for aging actors. That’s the toxic impulse poisoning the whole endeavor, by the way, and a lot of similar endeavors: the idea that aging just means having to try a little harder to act young. There isn’t much creativity to it, just LIFT WEIGHTS HARDER, OLD MAN! THESE BONERS AREN’T GOING TO ENGORGE THEMSELVES! It’s more a general trend in our culture than anything specific to Stand Up Guys, but it does end up ruining Stand Up Guys, which, despite its formulaic script, did have the potential to be something more. I think we’ve all just seen one too many Low T commercials.

GRADE: C+

That gold-hearted hooker, by the way, is played by Lucy Punch, who must have a dynamite agent. It’s not that she doesn’t have potential – she’s commits admirably, but she needs direction, because she turns every scene she’s in into broad sitcom farce. Here’s a rule of thumb, if you think you need wacky accents and goofy outfits to spice up a scene, you’re probably focusing on the wrong things.

[This review is an extended version of one that appeared in The Portland Mercury]


TAGSal pacinoALAN ARKINchristopher walkenFISHER STEVENSJANUARY MOVIESlucy punchNOAH HAIDLESTAND UP GUYS

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