Do You See What I See?
It looks like this is the season for comebacks, with old timers and veterans proving a point that they still have it in them to pull off a film, at least with their charisma being top draw, and a bonus if the story does justice to their big screen return. Christopher Walken may had made his mark this year with Seven Psychopaths, but it's not until Stand Up Guys playing opposite Al Pacino and Alan Arkin that truly brought out a finer performance, making this Fisher Stevens directed movie one of the best this year so far in a tale about what it means to be friends.
Written by Noah Haidle, the story centers around Doc (Walken) who becomes the only one to meet long time friend and collaborator Val (Pacino) when he comes out of prison after 28 years. And while you'd like to think that's what friends are for, there's another agenda to this almost three decade wait, that he's the appointed hit man by a cruel mob boss who wants to settle scores with Val for killing his only son. And to wait that long for revenge, is to ensure Val knows what's coming for him, after serving his long sentence. To spice things up in a diabolical way, why not threaten one's best friend to finish the job? Doc is given a deadline until 10am the next day, or face further consequences that don't need any spelling out.
So in what would be like a last hurrah to celebrate their friendship, reminisce about old times, and essentially complete one's last supper with meals, drugs, getting laid and the whole shenanigans, Stand Up Guys follow the duo, which became a trio once they pick up Alan Arkin's Hirsch, through a night filled with a series of random adventures, from stealing cars, to picking up girls, and spend what would be their best time together before the inevitable had to happen. And it was such a pleasant ride that you'd hope it would have moved in real time instead, and more, with regular pit stops made at different points in the narrative that was as funny as they were necessary, to move the plot forward.
The success of this movie came from the story by Haidle, who had created quality characters filled with humanity in them, that they become a lot more than just characters on screen, but closer to people you would truly and easily care for, especially as the clock goes ticking away towards the deadline. The script's witty, and comical when it wants to, providing Pacino's Val with some of the best lines in the film, sometimes tinged with melancholy especially his eulogy about death - which you would have heard over the trailer - and often times filled with wry humour as a dead man would in knowing that his end is near.
Christopher Walken, playing off opposite Pacino, was the relatively serious counterpoint to Val, and I felt he stole the show from the more showy Pacino character through quieter moments, with plenty of emotional baggage of his character being worn on his sleeve given Doc's family issues, and the weight and pressure of having been assigned to bump off a good friend, which is something nobody should be put through. Alan Arkin's role may be the relatively smaller one, but when these three veterans get together, it's nothing but pure magic in the way cinema lights up when well written and developed characters get fleshed out by A-list performances, making it almost direct itself - no intent meant to take the shine from director Stevens for a job well done.
And the expanded supporting characters also added a little something special, especially those that dealt with family, because after sitting through this, and being dispensed with plenty of words of wisdom about love and life, you can't help but to fall in love with a film that had plenty of heart and soul. I'm clearly going to get this on DVD at least, to relive the experience again and hopefully with a little bit more extras being packaged together. A definite recommend!