Lionsgate’s new star-driven drama Stand Up Guys was soundly panned by critics and viewers alike when it premiered in theaters early this year. It was panned, citing poor writing, bad acting, and equally poor pacing. It is quite obvious that in noting these slights, the individuals in question that made these comments couldn’t see the forest for the trees. More than likely, these same individuals went into the movie with overblown expectations of it being just another generic gangster flick with lots of gunfights, drugs, and sex. This critic is guilty of that, too. But unlike those other critics, this critic was pleasantly surprised at how much Stand Up Guys stands out.
Stand Up Guys is not just another gangster flick flooded with drugs, sex, gunfights and foul language. The reality of this story is that it is less a gangster flick and more a story about friendship that just happens to be centered on two geriatric gangsters played by veteran actors Christopher Walken (Catch Me if You Can, Batman Returns) and Al Pacino (The Godfather I – III, Dog Day Afternoon, Any Given Sunday) that are reunited when the latter is released from jail. Val (Pacino) just wants to get his life on the right track after having been in prison for so many years, yet he is haunted by the ghost of a past crime, which leads his friend Doc (Walken) to face the issue of what is the right thing to do himself. Throughout everything, the story does end up with a happy ending and even a big shootout to satiate all the viewers that had been chomping at the bit for a shootout scene throughout the story’s ninety-five minute run time. Heck, there’s even a Steve McQueen style car chase thrown in about halfway through the movie for good measure. So those wanting some action out of the movie do get that.
Given the opportunity, audiences will see just how much Stand Up Guys has to offer. It can be said though that for all of its positives, the story does struggle at least slightly as a result of its pacing. There is no denying this. While the movie’s run time is just over an hour and a half, the pacing may in fact leave some viewers checking their watches and/or clocks sporadically throughout the story. Luckily though, it makes up for the pacing with a story that will keep viewers engaged despite the pacing. Audiences will want to see if Walken’s Doc can keep himself from making a bad choice and maintaining his friendship with Val. Again, those themes of friendship and loyalty help to make this movie stand out. They help to prove once again that while it isn’t another gangster flick, it is much more than that. It is a drama that will entertain those whose minds are open enough and willing to see it for its true value.
The story behind Stand Up Guys is one that given the chance will entertain and engage audiences whose minds are open enough. Without the right actors though, the story would not work. Luckily this pair of veterans showed through its combined experience that even a script for a story such as this can work and that old dogs can in fact learn new tricks. Despite the pacing issues, the two were able to work together and interpret each scene in a way that elicits the intended emotions from viewers, thus making the movie’s pacing more forgivable. In turn, it makes the movie as a whole that much more watchable more than once. In fact, this is a movie that given the chance will grow on viewers increasingly with each watch. And this is definitely a good thing. It is a surprising story that in the end proves to be a dark horse candidate to make this critic’s list of the year’s best new movies. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Lionsgate store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/search_results.asp?Search=Stand%20Up%20Guys.
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