If you have either Netflix or Amazon Prime, you really need to watch “Stand-Up Guys,” since you’ve already paid for it, and it’s a wonderful movie. I’ve always been in awe of Al Pacino, the rare kind of actor who can play both the head of a huge crime family (The Godfather) as well as a down on his luck, low level wiseguy (Donny Brasco) without either of those roles influencing his take on the other. He displays this amazing talent again, adding another completely unique mob character to his portfolio in Stand-Up Guys. Playing opposite Christopher Walken, Pacino creates a bad guy whose heart would be in the right place, if it only weren’t so damn big. Far from an anti-hero, Valentine, or “Val” to his friends, despite spending the past 28 years in prison, is an obvious master of his nefarious craft, but a good guy, which we assume is the cast in the opening scenes, one of which shows him warmly shaking hands with the prison guard escorting him to the exit gate.
Walken’s character is far more conflicted, for reasons that eventually become clear, but proves he too is a stand-up guy on many levels. Always entertaining, Alan Arkin provides the predictable long-suffering, naval-gazing Jewish friend whose job it is to reveal other characters, but at the same time revealing his own interesting and touching story.
There’s a great message in the movie, that holding a grudge is never a good idea, nor is assuming youth and vitality trumps experience that has nothing to lose.
The beginning of “Stand-Up Guys” is executed perfectly, and the ending, though not what I thought it would be, likewise. Jon Bon Jovi’s music is an essential foundation for the story, much better than what most directors would do, recycling pop songs from these gangsters’ day in the sun. Bon Jovi’s original tunes are a much better soundtrack for this film, acoustic and modern, yet introspective. Nice stuff.
I don’t think this film did well in theaters, but it deserves success. Great story, wonderful script executed flawlessly by two of the finest actors who ever worked in front of a camera.
I give it 7 out of 5 stars!