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Stand Up Guys


Stars: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Julianna Margulies, Mark Margolis, Lucy Punch, Addison Timlin, Bill Burr, Craig Sheffer

Director: Fisher Stevens

Al Pacino was lucky: the Adam Sandler starring vehicle Jack and Jill in which he appeared was not screened for UK reviewers, who were saved yet another embarrassing example of the star’s continuing fall from grace.

So it’s a genuine surprise and even greater pleasure to report that Pacino is the best he’s been for quite a while in this unheralded but eminently enjoyable crime comedy in which he plays an aged gangster who gets out of jail after 28 years and just wants fun, especially as he knows vengeful mobster hoodlum Mark Margolis wants him dead.

So he joins his equally ancient hoodlum best friend Christopher Walken (also noteworthy) for 24 hours of booze-and-women hedonism, which includes memorable brothel visits and a hilarious bad taste sequence that finds Pacino (“I got a python in my pants. Harder than the Rock of Gibraltar!”) in hospital with a record-breaking erection after over-dosing on Viagra.

But what Pacino doesn’t realize is Margolis has hired Walken to kill him…

Pacino is terrific, swigging Walken’s aftershave to pep himself up, and returning to a life of crime with infectious glee. Walken too, has his serio-comic role down pat while Alan Arkin, who joins them for one last hurrah after Walken and Pacino rescue him from an old people’s home, makes up a trio of performances to savour.

Fisher Stevens’ direction, too, is an unexpected pleasure. He cleverly maintains the hard-to-maintain dual tone necessary to pull off the ingenious screenplay while eliciting prime performances all round.

First-time feature film screenwriter Noah Haidle’s laughter-provoking script is sharply characterised and genuinely funny: imagine Damon Runyon saturated with four-letter word dialogue. Here, thanks to sharp playing by all concerned, the filthy language and low humour – notably in the brothel sequences – are perfectly justified in context.

The supporting roles – Addison Timlin as a friendly diner waitress, Vanessa Ferlito, who is discovered stark naked by Pacino and Walken in the trunk of the expensive gangsters’ car they steal, ER star Julianna Margulies back in hospital uniform again and Britain’s very own Lucy Punch – are well played too.

But they cannot – nor would they – upstage Pacino and Walken who combine hardman harshness with a double act that recalls great double acts like Laurel and Hardy, with a genuinely scary underlying edge of danger that arises from their crooked characters.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Entertainment Film Distributors. Colour by deluxe.
94 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 3, Swearing 3.

Review date: 23 Jun 2013