In Stand Up Guys, Al Pacino and Christopher Walken play second-rate Baltimore gangsters in their late 60s who make no bones about what grumpy old sociopaths they’ve become. Yet neither one is nearly as slow or creaky as the movie itself. Pacino, eyes burning with life beneath his electric thatch of hair, is Val, who has just gotten out of prison. Walken, whose own gravity-defying mane is practically a character of its own, is Val’s old chum Doc, a guy with secret orders to rub out his pal before the next morning. The two sit around diners, cappuccino joints, and a cruddy apartment, talking about the bad old days. They go to a brothel and crack wise about threesomes and Viagra. Pacino, showing off any way he can, gets onto a dance floor, and Walken commands attention his own way, by staring off into space.
Directing his first dramatic feature, Fisher Stevens does his best to give these gravel-voiced legends room to strut their stuff. But that’s the problem: The movie is too much of a wide-eyed, ramshackle homage to ’70s-acting-class indulgence. It needed much more shape and snap. Still, when Alan Arkin joins the party as a dying colleague, his antics — at least once he gets behind the wheel of a stolen car — give the film a fuel injection. Stand Up Guys reminds you that these three are still way too good to collapse into shticky self-parody, even when they’re in a movie that’s practically begging them to. B-