I've seen a lot of people suppose that STAND UP GUYS is about a punch of old guys doing wacky stuff, and while the film certainly isn't a master work, it's not GRUMPY OLD MEN either. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that in most scenes, the movie isn't even trying to be funny, although there are some laughs. What the film is about is three elderly former gangsters trying to recapture old times and come to grips with the fact that they are in the final chapters of their respective lives. Despite a few silly moments, the film has a melancholy current running below the surface, probably there because one of the men has been charged with murdering the other, as low-class as they might be.
STAND UP GUYS opens with Val (Al Pacino) being released from a 28-year stint in prison. He kept his mouth shut to protect the boss like any good criminal does, and now he's out—met by his best pal Doc (Christopher Walken, far from the weird-guy mode we saw in SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS). But during the job that got Val arrested, he shot the boss' son, and hasn't been forgiven. In turn, Doc has been told to kill Val within 24 hours of his release; he knows it's not right but the boss has leverage on him, so he has to go through with it. Val has lost most of his spark in prison, but a trip to a brothel gets him energized, and eventually the two men go rescue their former third man, Hirsch (Alan Arkin), from his retirement home, and the three go seeking adventure.
What happens instead are conversations about regrets, old glories and what it means to be loyal, all the while Doc is waiting for the right moment to off his friend, who (no surprise) kind of knows it's coming. There are distractions, such as a diner waitress that Walken seems close to, a hooker whom the boys save and help get her revenge on some men who treated her bad, and some awful original music by Jon Bon Jovi.
The screenplay from first-time writer Noah Haidle has a few nice touches, but actor-turned-director Fischer Stevens smartly relies on his actors to fill in the gaps, pump up the energy, and save the film from being a complete disaster. These are actors who are always easy to watch, either because they're giving us more of what we've come to expect from them or because they're trying out something different. I think completists of Walken or Pacino films will be pleased; the rest of you, I make no promises. I will admit, I thought STAND UP GUYS had a hell of an ending, but getting there feels like it takes a very long time.