With Al Pacino as Val and Christopher Walken as Doc, the somewhat clichéd situation should unfold with sparks flying and tension palpable. Would that this were true. Unfortunately, the content struggles to rise to sophomoric levels and occasionally sinks to totally embarrassing. It's so dispiriting to watch these two master actors exchange inane dialogue about juvenile situations. They'd thrive on banter they could sink their teeth into, on grappling with mature issues that would ignite exciting synergy. And they certainly could handle any challenge.
Instead in his first feature, writer Noah Haidle takes Doc and Val multiple times to a local whorehouse, a boring bar, clothes shopping, a deserted diner, and a hospital emergency room because Val took a handful of Viagra and suffers the consequences. In another pointless interlude, Doc and Val face down ludicrously stupid thugs, and in yet another they spring veteran getaway driver Hirsh (Alan Arkin) from a retirement home for a joy ride in a stolen car. The scene belongs in a teen comedy with Arkin's talent insensitively wasted. So too is wonderful Julianna Margulies as nurse Nina and Mark Margolis as Claphands, the mob boss who's put out the hit because Val accidentally killed his son.
Where have the good screenwriters gone? Is this really the most imaginative scenario that could be greenlighted? Haidle has no sense of rhythm, especially given that Pacino and Walken are like oil and water, Pacino full of nervous, coiled energy and Walken a study in subdued restraint. Playing with this dichotomy ought to be fun; it isn't, though like the pros they are, each actor delivers a fine performance.
In his premiere narrative feature, director Fisher Stevens nicely avoids overdoing atmospheric music, but his merely serviceable compositions fail to deliver any captivating nuances. Of course, the actors must be front and center, but in that regard Pacino, Walken and Arkin deserve so much better than "Stand Up Guys."