Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin could play aging hit men in their sleep, and with “Stand Up Guys,” director Fisher Stevens seems determined to let them try. The film is a mobbed-up “Bucket List,” in which grumpy old gangsters try to recapture their glory days through ultraviolence and chivalry, but the script never gives these great actors the ammunition they need to do a bang-up job.
Pacino stars as Val, a wise guy who was locked up for a gangland hit around the time Brian De Palma's “Scarface” came out. Released from prison after 28 years, Val is a man out of time: a local thug (Mark Margolis of “Breaking Bad”) wants him rubbed out and is forcing Val's old associate Doc (Walken) to do the deed. Doc has dreaded this assignment for three decades and wishes the powers-that-be would just leave him to his drab, routine existence, but no dice — he has one day to take Val out, which gives the men about 24 hours to get in a few last kicks.
That is where “Stand Up Guys” begins to resemble Rob Reiner's “The Bucket List,” but with bare-knuckled skull cracking, brothel excursions, lots of surf-and-turf dinners, gunplay and a Viagra overdose — yes, it goes straight for the priapism joke in less than 20 minutes. The story picks up some mild steam when the duo rescues their old getaway driver Hirsch (Arkin) from a nursing home, but the respite is brief. Like Doc, screenwriter Noah Haidle is marking time, sending his guys back to the same dank diner for more talk about old times and Val's fate.
For most of the proceedings, Pacino and Walken just look bored out of their skulls. “Stand Up Guys” could be forgiven some of its listless meandering if it were a more modest affair with less concentrated on-screen talent in its mix. But Stevens and Haidle recruited a dream cast — the supporting players include Juliana Margulies, Lucy Punch, Vanessa Ferlito and Bill Burr — and gave them little to do than fill out some stock characters in a bloodless mob opera. It's not just a missed opportunity — “Stand Up Guys” feels criminally negligent.
— George Lang