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It has been a very busy week and I’ve had one of those ‘family emergencies’ you always hear about, so this is going to be a shorter review than normal.

Feature


Val (Al Pacino) is released from prison after serving twenty-eight years for refusing to give up one of his close criminal associates. His best friend Doc (Christopher Walken) is there to pick him up and the two soon re-team with another old pal, Hirsch (Alan Arkin). Their bond is as strong as ever and the three reflect on freedom lost and gained, loyalties ebbed and flowed, and days of glory gone by. But one of the friends is keeping a dangerous secret- he's been put in an impossible quandary by a former mob boss and his time to find an acceptable alternative is running out. As the sun rises on the guys' legendary reunion, their position becomes more and more desperate and they finally confront their past once and for all. (From Lionsgate’s official synopsis)

Stand Up Guys
Stand Up Guys is one of those movies that come out a few times per year that somehow manage to score an all-star cast despite an unremarkable, in this case almost nonexistent, screenplay. I’m guessing this particular concoction of Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin (all men not exactly known for their caution when choosing projects) was gathered, thanks to one of their own, Fisher Stevens, sitting in the director’s chair. There’s just no way Noah Haidle’s script ‘spoke’ to them enough to commit to the project (apparently, I’m wrong here, according to the extra features). The elder stars appear frazzled the entire film. I believe they’re trying to play up their grizzled ages, but it feels more like they’re genuinely tired and weren’t really sure what to do with their lines. The screenplay is full of the kind of matter of fact, ‘no school like the old school,’ non-discussion that people have been fumbling since Tarantino became a popular thing to mimic (Haidle even rips off one of Rowdy Roddy Piper’s They Live one-liners). Walken definitely carries the emotional impact of the first act, but Pacino’s portrayal of patheticness is perhaps too successful as a downer of an old guy and Arkin’s appearance barely counts as a cameo. The less famous, younger, female support cast – Lucy Punch, Julianna Margulies, and Addison Timlin in particular – do a lot of heavy lifting where Pacino and Arkin fall short. It’s definitely cuter to watch old pros ramble on about nothing, but geez is it ever a listless experience. Worse, it’s kind of embarrassing and definitely sad how unfunny it all is. The groan-inducing ‘boner pill’ jokes are barely worthy of a CBS sitcom. The apathetic storytelling did eventually grow on me, mostly because Stevens does such a good job maintaining the film’s pace and tone. It’s not a particularly entertaining or moving movie (I’d probably cut about ten minutes too), but I respect everyone involved for sticking to their tonal ‘guns’ throughout the film.

Stand Up Guys

Video


Stevens and cinematographer Michael Grady shot Stand Up Guys using 5K Red Epic digital cameras and this 1080p, 1.35:1 Blu-ray transfer looks every bit a digitally-shot, hi-res production. The colour palette is limited to, not surprisingly, oranges and teals with some green, lavender, and red poppy elements. The gradient qualities are smooth, kind of eerily smooth, but usually not at the risk of the more complex skin and clothing textures, specifically in close-up. The movie is super dark and the focus is mostly shallow, so there’s not an excess of detail or patterns in the backgrounds (the whorehouse is brimming with intricate wallpaper and set pieces), but everything remains clean without more than a hint of digital noise/grain. Contrast levels are harsh, though not so harsh that they damage those smooth Red Epic gradations. The edges of the hyper-deep blacks and hyper-bright whites bleed out into soft blobs, but these don’t extend too far into the vivid colours. Basically, the only thing holding this transfer back is the presence of some notable edge enhancement in those craggy, sharp details. Even this is not really enough of an issue to complain about.

Audio


Stand Up Guys is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, but I’m not exactly sure why, because it’s such an understated film, aurally speaking. This isn’t to say the mix is bad – it’s just low-key. The whole thing is based around the dialogue track, which is even and warm with only a handful of odd volume inconsistencies. Ambient noise is rarely aggressive and barely even present, but does give the stereo and surround channels a little bit to do. There are a few stand-out moments that feature directional bits and LFE-pressing sound effects – they’re just few and far between. These include the grinding moan of a car engine during the joyride sequences and the throbbing boom of gun blasts during the brief climatic shoot-out. Lyle Workman’s jazzy/bluesy score is lightly peppered into the mix, giving more space to the source music, which is often the chief (practically only) aural element when utilized. When given free rein, the source music is quite large throughout the front channels.

Stand Up Guys

Extras


The extras include:
  • Director’s commentary with director Fisher Stevens.
  • The Lowdown on Making Stand Up Guys (11:50, HD) with Stevens, producers Sidney Kimmel and Tom Rosenberg, and cast members Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, and Julianna Margulies.
  • The Stand Up Songs of Bon Jovi (4:50, HD) on the music Jon Bon Jovi wrote for the film.
  • American Muscle: The Stand Up Stunt Driving Scenes (5:00, HD), including storyboards and discussion with stunt coordinator Darrin Prescott.
  • Two deleted scenes (2:40, HD).
  • Trailers for other Lionsgate releases.


Stand Up Guys

Overall


Stand Up Guys is not a bad movie, but it’s a very uneventful and unmemorable one. It rarely excels (Christopher Walken is very good) and rarely fails utterly (the first act is painfully unfunny) – it just sort of happens and then it’s over. If you’re in the mood for a movie where an Al Pacino character is released from prison only to find there’s no escaping a criminal life, re-watch Carlito’s Way. If you’re in the mood for a movie where an elderly Christopher Walken plays a sad sack ex-con, watch last year’s Seven Psychopaths instead. It’s very underrated. I’d like to suggest a similar Alan Arkin movie, but I hated Little Miss Sunshine, so how about watching Wait Until Dark? If you are up for something pleasantly unmemorable, then Lionsgate’s Blu-ray will not disappoint – the A/V quality is just fine, only limited by the film’s A/V styles.

* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.


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