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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Stand Up Guys

May 20th, 2013

Stand Up Guys - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Stand Up Guys has a very impressive cast with three Oscar winners in the three lead roles. It also opened with an Oscar-qualifying run; however, outside of a Golden Globe nomination for best original song, it was passed over by Awards Season voters. When it opened in limited release, it debuted in several hundred theaters, but barely topped the Mendoza Line on the per theater chart, while it disappeared as quickly as that opening would suggest. Will it find success on the home market? Or will it struggle there like it did in limited release and during Awards Season?

The Movie

The film begins with us being introduced to two men: Val and Doc. Val is getting getting ready to leave prison while Doc gets ready to pick him up from prison. They are certainly friendly to each other, if a little awkward, but since we see Doc packing a gun, we know there's something wrong with their reunion.

After a short tour of Doc's apartment, he and Val head out for coffee. Val's looking for a little more excitement than just coffee, so they head over to a brothel run by Wendy DeHaviland (they both knew her mother). Wendy picks out Oxana, but when Val can't perform, the pair break into a pharmacy to steal some ED medicine. (Doc also uses this as an opportunity to grab some prescriptions he's low on.) After Val takes a few too many pills, they head back to the brothel. There, Doc calls Claphands, his and Val's old boss. It is now that we learn why Doc is packing heat. He's been told by Claphands to kill Val by morning, because Val shot Claphands' only son many, many years ago in a heist that went wrong. At first Doc agreed, but now he's trying to renege on the deal, but Claphands isn't going for it. If Doc doesn't kill Val, then Claphands is going to kill Doc.

Perhaps Doc won't have to make that choice, as Val nearly kills himself with a drug overdose. At first Doc thinks this is the perfect time to kill Val, but instead takes him to the hospital. The nurse who treats him turns out to be Nina Hirsch, the daughter of Richard Hirsch, who was the third in their little group. After Val gets out of the hospital, he and Doc head to a local all night diner where Doc introduces Val to his favorite waitress, Alex. Val knows Claphands wants him dead and he figures out Doc is the one who has to do it. Val is pretty accepting of his fate. He just wants to spend the few hours he has left doing something. He just doesn't know what.

Fortunately, an opportunity lands at his feet. While walking down the street letting his last meal digest, Val spots a muscle car and he's very tempted to steal it. Doc warns him the car belongs to some very dangerous people, the Jargoniew brothers. They didn't lock the car, because they know no one is crazy enough to steal it, but Val thinks it's fate. They steal the car and head to The Lighthouse, the retirement home where Hirsch lives. Hirsch was the getaway driver back when they were working, so he gets behind the wheel. After a high speed chase with the cops, they get to a quieter road only to hear someone in the trunk. It's a woman, Sylvia. When they find out what the Jargoniews did to her, they decide its time to come out of retirement and get some revenge for her. It might be Val's last night on Earth, but at least he will get to relive his glory days.

So much acting talent, so little script. Worse still, what little script there is waivers in tone from a serious drama about aging to a rather unfunny lowbrow comedy. Jokes about ED and the side effects of taking too many pills are too predictable and the execution falls flat. The action takes place within a 24-hour period, but there are too many subplots thrown in and the characters, especially the supporting characters, never get developed enough to have any emotional connection. Alan Arkin's role is barely a cameo, while too much time is spent in another predictable and unfunny joke at the brothel. Likewise, Julianna Margulies' character isn't in the film for long enough given what happens to her. She learns her father dies, but she can't have a real emotional reaction to that news, because that would take away too much attention from the two leads. I did like Addison Timlin's performance in the film, even if the surprise twist with her character is a little too obvious. And of course, both Al Pacino and Christopher Walken are great in the movie. This is one of Al Pacino's best performances in a long time, while I can't remember the last time Christopher Walken was bad in a movie. Even in bad movies, he is reliable.

The Extras

Extras begin with an audio commentary track with the director, Fisher Stevens. There is a 12-minute making of featurette, shorter featurettes on the car chase scene and the music, and finally two deleted scenes. This isn't bad for a limited release.

Likewise, the technical presentation is great for a $15 million film. The film was shot digitally and the level of details here is incredible, which is important, because much of the film deals with how the two lead characters have aged, and we can really see that in their faces. A lot of the film takes place at night and the inky blacks are an asset. Colors are strong, while there are no compression issues to deal with. The audio isn't showy, but there's enough activity in the surround sound speakers to not seem barren. Meanwhile, the dialogue is always clear.

The Blu-ray costs $17, which is $5 or 31% more than the DVD. That's not a bad price, but it also isn't a real bargain either.

The Verdict

Stand Up Guys is disappointing. The incredible amount of acting talent, both young and old, is mostly wasted in this film. If you are a fan of the two leads, and a fan of the genre, then it is worth checking out. However, even then, the DVD or the Blu-ray is just worth a rental.

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Filed under: Video Review, Stand Up Guys, Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, Vanessa Ferlito, Mark Margolis, Julianna Margulies, Lucy Punch, Fisher Stevens, Christopher Walken, Katheryn Winnick, Addison Timlin