STAND UP GUYS (Fisher Stevens). 95 minutes. Opens Friday (February 1). For venues and times, see listing. Rating: NNN
What Christopher Walken and Al Pacino do in Stand Up Guys has a sturdy, no-bullshit quality that you have to respect.
No, there's nothing in this Tarantinoesque pulp-flavoured drama we haven't seen before, but the sight of Walken and Pacino as aging Los Angeles hoods spending a day knocking around their old haunts has a weird, cracked integrity. We know who these guys are and what to expect from the actors playing them, and the movie delivers on those terms. I'm surprised they didn't just call it Old Pros.
Walken is world-weary Doc, picking up his old buddy Val (Pacino) when he's released from the joint after 28 years on a murder rap. But here's the twist, revealed well before the end of the first reel: Val is a marked man, and it's Doc who's been ordered to pop him.
The ticking clock lets Walken and Pacino infuse their performances with an exhausted gravity that balances all the rote gangster crap in Noah Haidle's script. (In contrast, Mark Margolis and Bill Burr - so exquisitely menacing on Breaking Bad - struggle to invest their generic heavies with anything approaching life.)
Alan Arkin contributes a lovely cameo as a wheezy wheelman sprung from the retirement home for one last joyride. Like everything else in Stand Up Guys, his arc ends up exactly as you think it will.
But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it while it's happening.