Stand Up Guys Is A Stand Out Story

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

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

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Dark Horse A Dark Horse Itself In The year’s Indie Movie Race

Courtesy: Virgil Films

Writer/Director Todd Solondz new indie flick Dark Horse is not one of those movies that will grab audiences on the very first watch.  It is for all intensive purposes, a dark comedy.  It’s one of those pieces that must be watched more than once to truly appreciate its depth.  Here, Solondz presents thirty-something Abe, who lives with his parents.  How often has that been done, right?  Right.  But what makes this so great is that actor Justin Bartha really pulls off the stereotype, even going a little over the top at some points, to make his character believable.  Abe is a grown up kid who obviously has a complete lack of connection to reality.  Ironically enough, there are people out there just like Abe.  Perhaps that reality is part of what makes this story difficult for some audiences to digest.  From his relationship with his parents Jackie (Christopher Walken) and Phyllis (Mia Farrow) to that of his new girlfriend Miranda (Selma Blair), Abe shows his lack of maturity and responsibility.  Abe only makes things worse for himself after proposing to Miranda having known her only for a week.  Yet again, he shows his complete lack of connection to reality maturity here.

It’s these poor choices and general lack of maturity that has led to Abe’s disconnection with his family, including his far more successful brother.  As uncomfortable as all of this is for viewers, Dark Horse offers laughs, too.  There are people out there like Abe.  That’s what makes his character so funny.  Yet as his life begins to go downhill so quickly after meeting Miranda, one can’t help but feel a certain level of sympathy for him.  That his life is so pathetic will actually make viewers want to have hope for him, despite everything.  And that’s where the charm behind Dark Horse comes from.  It’s one of those stories that as funny as it is, it’s just as moving.  It reminds audiences about having compassion.

Audiences will develop compassion not just for Abe, but for his parents, too, as the story progresses.  While his relationship with his parents is dysfunctional to say the least, they show that they still love him.  And as the story comes to its surprising and bittersweet end, that compassion that builds for both Abe and his parents may even leave some viewers at least somewhat teary eyed.  The near ninety-minute movie’s final moments are emotional.  And they bring the entire story full circle, leaving an impression that won’t soon leave audiences who have taken the time to experience this story.  It’s one more piece of evidence in the argument proving that indie flicks are just as good as any major big screen feature.  It’s one more indie flick that any true movie lover should experience if only once.

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