Oh, the relief. After weeks of watching miserable old treatises on decrepitude, old Jack hit upon this gem. Objectively, a load of old tosh, emotionally, just what the older gentleman trapped in his TV chair needs: Christopher Walken, Al Pacino and Alan Arkin treating old age their way. All hail those Stand Up Guys!
So, Pacino (Val) has done 28 years time covering for his buds and is greeted at the door by Walken (Doc) his oldest friend. Unfortunately, the local mob boss, the rattlingly guttural Mark Margolis (Claphands – really) lost his son long ago and blames Val. So, he has set up Walken to kill his Pacino and 10am the following morning is the deadline.
Oh, this is glorious. A wizened and stary Walken, not stalking like a stick insect round his friend (but you know it’s in him), indulges Pacino’s desires for a great final night. Pacino, a grizzled wreck of nuttiness and side-swipe acting, recognises the inevitability of what’s happening and charges at the best of times. And the friendship stands true, with gentle, quality humour running between the veterans of screen crime. I warmed to their relationship instantly – and so will you. For, old men, they are our walking fantasy of us. Okay, hobbling a bit, but…blimey…Pacino discovers Viagra and snorts of it…
And off Doc and Val head to the brothel (actually the pills are after the first, un-erectile visit, a casual break-in at a pharmacists and a stylish return). Katheryn Winnick is Oxana, the cheerily un-American prostitute on the receiving end of Val’s 4-time celebration. This was a year before she went all Viking in Vikings and rightly hit the big time. It’d be interesting to hear what she says about playing the comedy prostitute here: pre #metoo, the beautiful young blonde, one of those female rôles. Still, she and Lucy Punch as Wendy, the daughter of the old owner they way back when, make chargeable sex look like a warm, funny, welcoming thing to end a three decade dry spell… And can we not just let old man daydreams have some air for a moment?
Val has a price to pay, his little Val congealing from the volume of pills. As luck may have it, the doctor (Julianna Margulies) who solves the problem is the daughter of a third bud from the old gang…Alan Arkin as Hirsch! And off they go to my favourite Monday morning thoughts: they break him out of the care home, leaving the oxygen behind, steal a fancy-pants car and Hirsch the Driver speeds like a hugely skilled maniac through those mean streets. More fantasy ahoy: back to the brothel for Hirsch’s dream of two women in his bed at once. After whispered flirty persuasion, Oxana and new-to-this Wendy take him on, pouring impassioned affection on this magical lover on the way back down the stairs.
I’d like to think it’d go that way with old Jack.
The daydreams keep on coming: Doc and Val help out a woman brutalised by a gang of urban shits. Through the streets they then go to the heart of the story: the relationship that flutters between Walken and Pacino, two skilled old vets easily equalled in their instant friendship with Addison Timlin as Alex the waitress. It’s unexpected: scenes of instant sweetness between these old men and the interested woman getting them food. The layers of warmth and wit in these scenes bring out the old father, okay grandfather, in me. Protective, curious, funny. Bloody well done, Fisher Stevens.
And the ending. Aaaah – the ending. If you have a heart, a sense of justice and movie history…you’re going to love ending.
Honestly, this is the old man film of 2012. Impeccably acted, with little ego but big dashes of style, Stand Up Guys makes the most of its talent, tells a gentle (I know, not surprising, but when are they ever?) story, resonating with friendship and a tenderness we only get, and really need, in our 70s.
Go watch it and bask in crumbly glory.