Collecting three venerable pros like Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin would seem to be, if not a guaranteed recipe for success, at least a reasonable hedge against total failure. The best that can be said about Stand Up Guys, however, is that their distinguished presence elevates it from unwatchable to barely watchable. Pacino plays Val, a mobster newly released from prison after 28 years; Walken is Doc, his best friend, who Val quickly realizes has been ordered to kill him by their mutual boss, as revenge for Val accidentally killing the boss’ son decades earlier. To celebrate Val’s final hours, he and Doc rescue their former driver Hirsch (Arkin) from a nursing home and hit the town, reliving past glories through the long night and trying not to think about what has to happen once the sun finally comes up.
Directed by veteran actor Fisher Stevens, Stand Up Guys treats its three icons with indulgent affection—perhaps a little too indulgent in Walken’s case, as he increasingly sounds like he’s doing his own version of a Christopher Walken impression, emphasizing wrong syllables seemingly at random. Pacino and Arkin fare somewhat better, leaning hard on their inherent charm. But no thespian on Earth is gifted enough to dignify this screenplay’s assortment of lame Viagra jokes, cutesy violence (one laborious subplot sees the boys help a young woman, played by Vanessa Ferlito, take revenge against her rapists) and maudlin sentiment. When one of the three main characters eventually winds up dead, it feels like he escaped.