Veering between buddy movie and action-thriller, “Stand Up Guys” is a mildly raunchy, modestly entertaining geriatric comedy starring Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin as retired gangsters who reunite for one last night on the town. Relying too heavily on jokes of the old-habits-die-hard and they-don’t-make-’em-like-they-used-to sort while incorporating conventions from and sendups of countless other pics, director Fisher Stevens’ talky, tongue-in-cheek feature is most likable when the main characters are simply playing off each other. Lionsgate’s January release will skew toward older auds and likely post its best numbers in ancillary.
Unspooling over a less-than-24-hour period during which time is of the essence, the plot revolves around whether Doc (Walken) will prove as much of a stand-up guy as his former best friend and partner in crime, Val (Pacino). Val served 28 years in prison for accidentally killing the son of crime boss Claphands (Mark Margolis), an incident in which he could have implicated Doc. Meanwhile, the still vengeful Claphands has ordered Doc to dispatch Val on the very day of his release on parole.
Happy to be free at last, Val just wants to party. Doc decides to indulge his pal for a spell, taking him to the brothel they used to frequent, only to find the madam has retired to Florida, leaving the business to her daughter (Lucy Punch). Val’s inability to get it up leads to a pharmacy break-in and some of the pic’s funniest moments, when Doc decides to stock up on medications with a high co-pay.
When Val needs treatment for a Viagra overdose, helmer Stevens even includes an “ER” joke as nurse Nina (Julianna Margulies) wheels him into the hospital. Nina happens to be the daughter of their former get-away driver, Hirsch (Arkin), whom the guys impetuously decide to rescue from his nursing home. Just as Doc and Val can still pick a lock and pack a powerful punch despite being advanced in years, so, too, can Hirsch still drive like an Indy champion; cue a high-speed car chase that feels as tired as the earlier priapism jokes.
First-time scribe Noah Haidle, known for his plays, gives the screenplay a circular structure, bringing the guys back to the brothel, Nina and Doc’s favorite diner so that longtime wishes may be fulfilled, tributes paid and secrets revealed. Although some of the dialogue is truly funny, the pic tends to over-milk situational humor, and a scene of unprovoked violence against a Korean storekeeper strikes a really wrong note.
A thesp and docu producer directing his second fiction feature (after 2002’s “Just a Kiss”), Stevens wisely lets the stars have fun mocking their own geezer-tude. Pacino gets the showiest role and attacks it with wild-eyed gusto; by contrast, it’s nice to see Walken as the restrained character for a change, although he’s able to work in his trademark jig. Arkin exhibits his usual flair in a smaller part. As the title suggests, it’s a man’s world, and the distaff perfs are nothing special.
Sharp-looking tech package is distinguished by Michael Grady’s darkly beautiful widescreen lensing, which lends some of the diner shots the look of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.” Reliable soundtrack includes original songs by Jon Bon Jovi.