Fun fact: Alan Arkin, Al Pacino and Christopher Walken never have been in a movie together. Even now. Stand Up Guys doesn't count; it's more like a one-act play, photographed for posterity with notes still scribbled in its margins. Its title is for cliché's sake, but the whole thing just seems to want to lie down for a while, maybe forever.
To some extent, the audience for this is self-selecting. Anybody who heard there'd be an Arkin-Pacino-Walken gangster comedy and wasn't already disappointed, probably won't be. That leaves the rest of us wondering how far we ought to keep extending the credit these actors earned in their heyday. The film's most authentic aspect is the unfortunate suggestion that its leads' best days really are behind them.
Pacino gets out of prison after a long stint that might have been shorter if he'd tattled on his pals; Walken, the best of those pals, now has orders to kill him. Who'd give such illogical orders? Only "the meanest, most vindictive motherfucker outside the Devil himself," a crime boss played by Mark Margolis and introduced through a stale series of angry-goombah phone calls. These leave Walken with an hour and a half in which to look like he's procrastinating the decision to euthanize a sickly pet.
While we're supposed to wonder what he'll do, he takes Pacino out for a night of mischief and sentimental wiseguy reminiscence. Needing "to party," they go to a brothel. Needing Viagra, they rob a pharmacy. Needing medical attention for a Viagra overdose, they go to the ER, where the habit of demoting actors into dull parodies of their past personas continues, and Julianna Margulies plays a nurse.
It so happens that her father, Arkin, is the guys' former getaway driver, now withering away in an old-folks' home. They break him out, steal a car and find a naked woman in its trunk, then gallantly abet her brutal revenge on the thugs who put her there. Now and then they pause for steaks and more reminiscence at the all-night diner where a cute young waitress has nothing better to do than adore them. She figures into the plot, preposterously, too.
Spoiler alert: One of the guys dies. It's hard to blame him, given a story not worth sticking around for. We do get that it's supposed to be a last hurrah anyway, and no amount of outrageous pseudo-Tarantino antics can shake off the reflective mood.
Pacino gives off the same frothy babble he's been good for since whenever he became so depressingly easy to imitate. Arkin obviously has a knack for capering, but here he's a blur. Walken comes closest to real dignity, but only when not saying anything.
And we're just supposed to be grateful, too, for the privilege of witnessing this particular power trio noodling together at last. Stand Up Guys does at least get us thinking about mortality: Someday there'll be no more old-man dick schtick, or shots looking up at gangsters from inside a car trunk, and then what'll the movies do?