'Stand Up Guys'

If the worst offense of Stand Up Guys was thinking it could let acting legends Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin talk to each other like caricatures of themselves for 90 minutes and think you can get a decent film out of that, it would merely be terrible. Because it also features a nonsensical premise, juvenile attempts at humor and half-baked philosophical platitudes, it is much, much worse.

Only other untalented hacks should take comfort in this film's existence -- it means the bar for worst of the year has been set very high. Walken plays Doc, a retired gangster who picks up his former partner, Pacino's Val, at the end of a 28-year prison sentence, ostensibly to celebrate his first taste of freedom in a few decades. Doc's true assignment is to kill Val. Their former boss, Claphands (Mark Margolis), holds him responsible for the death of his son during the same botched job that earned Val his prison sentence.

Doc is deeply conflicted about his task. Not only do they have a long friendship that complicates matters, but he also knows that Claphands has unfairly blamed Val. He's given until the next morning to take his friend out, and so he sets about procrastinating. Doc and Val eat about five meals, go to the same whorehouse three times, steal a car, break their old wheelman Hirsch (Arkin) out of his nursing home and so on. At one point Val has to go to the hospital because he took too much Viagra. He also snorts stolen hypertension medicine off of a bar.

All of this is exactly as disjointed and bizarre as I've presented it here, maybe more so. Director Fisher Stevens and writer Noah Haidle were, I think, trying to be funny and wistful. What they produced instead is a big bucket of sad. Acting royalty though they might be, Pacino and Walken have displayed a propensity for playing ridiculous amalgamations of their past great roles in recent years. If you don't give them something to work with, you get crap -- crap that's pointedly depressing because we know how great they can be when they are actually handed decent material.

None of that can be found here. What the viewer is left with in its place is a depressing bit of symmetry as two great actors portray a couple of small-time crooks who were much better at their jobs about 20 years ago.