Stand Up Guys | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Stand Up Guys

A shaggy-dog comedy about three aging gangsters needs better laughs


Fisher Stevens' film is a low-key, shaggy-dog comedy about three aging gangsters tying up loose ends over one 18-hour period. Doc (Christopher Walken) picks up Val (Al Pacino), who is leaving prison after a couple of decades. But the day's celebrations — hooker, pills, steak dinners — have a darker edge: It's a last hurrah, since Doc is tasked by their longtime gang boss to kill Val. Later that night, the two collect their former driver, Hirsch (Alan Arkin), and get a bit of joy-riding in. They may be on blood-thinners, but they still got skills. 

There's not a lot of plot, and this should not be mistaken for a crime thriller. Stand Up Guys serves mostly as a playground to let this trio of well-known ham-sters go to town. Pacino is manic and profane, while Arkin is more melancholic. Walken is improbably the gooey center, reeling off quirky bon mots with studied world-weariness that barely cloaks his good-heartedness. As the three gamely slog through tired jokes about Viagra, cable TV and how cars have changed, you may smile. But mostly you'll wish these stand-up guys had better material for their golden years.

Cupid's Undie Run in Pittsburgh, 2024
18 images

Cupid's Undie Run in Pittsburgh, 2024

By Mars Johnson