*1/2 (out of four)
After “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “Quartet,” I'm glad to see a film about people in their grayer years take place somewhere other than a hotel in which the folks putter around and giggle about sex.
Of course, those jokes can happen anywhere, as evidenced by the extended—no pun intended—plotline in the frequently pathetic “Stand Up Guys” about just-paroled Val (Al Pacino) pounding Viagra so he can perform with a prostitute. If veteran actor Pacino is looking for the revived respect earned by Robert DeNiro in “Silver Linings Playbook,” he may want to avoid lines like “Mount Everest just moved into my pants,” and creepily hitting on much younger women whom he tells about the “python” he’s packing downstairs.
After it dispatches with the penis business, last year's Chicago Film Fest opener “Stand Up Guys” isn’t half bad. (Overall, it’s about 65 percent bad.) Since gangsters don’t always make it to their 70s, there’s merit to first-time feature writer Noah Haidle’s notion of how old wise guys spend their later days, alone and uninspired. Val’s best and only friend, Doc (Christopher Walken), picks him up from prison and abides his pal’s requests, though Val realizes Doc’s been assigned to kill Val as retribution for the supposedly accidental shooting that put Val away for 28 years. During their first wild night together in ages, the guys also pick up Hirsch (Alan Arkin) from a nursing home and, wouldn’t you know it, bring him to the brothel to fulfill his lifelong goal of a three-way.
Haidle and Chicago native director Fisher Stevens, who botch the timing of lines that could have been funny, try to have it both ways: They want us to lament the violent, alienating mistakes these friends have made but also laugh as Val punches a rude convenience store clerk and the crew attacks some lowlifes who stuff a woman (Vanessa Ferlito) into the trunk of a car Val stole.
In several manipulative moments about family and friendship, the men behind “Stand Up Guys” aim for a story about loyalty underscored by sadness. Mostly the movie, which feels like it’s killing time from bad joke to contrived action setpiece, is sad for other reasons.
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