Updated Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 05:01 PM
Sometimes, you watch a movie because you think it will be challenging or original or fascinating on some profound level, and sometimes you watch a movie because you want to watch a particular combination of actors hang out. That’s the reason to see “Stand Up Guys,” a movie in which Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and sometimes Alan Arkin play a trio of more-or-less retired gangsters. They wander around together for a long day and night, sitting in diners, visiting prostitutes and stealing cars — all the while trying to avoid bad guys, the kind who “take your kidneys and don’t even sell them.”
The action’s not particularly exciting; the screenplay relies way too heavily on a Viagra joke; and the final scene feels disappointingly inevitable. But “Stand Up Guys,” directed by Fisher Stevens (“Crazy Love”) and written by first-timer Noah Haidle, makes its way under your skin thanks to its three lead actors, all of whom have a way of bringing a uniquely weirdly spin to their not-so-tough-guy lines. Arkin makes the immortal question “Who made you the arbiter of whose pants are important?” into poetry; Walken’s wistful hesitancy as he tells a 911 operator to “have a great night” is oddly touching; and Walken and Pacino have a discussion about stain removal that has no business being funny, but it is. These actors, playing longtime friends, seem to shuck off the script and just become buddies before our eyes, and you want a seat at the diner table with them. “Tomorrow became today,” says Walken, near the end. Pacino, unruffled: “It usually does.”
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“Stand Up Guys,” with Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Julianna Margolies, Addison Timlin. Directed by Fisher Stevens, from a screenplay by Noah Haidle. 100 minutes. Rated R for language, sexual content, violence and brief drug use. Several theaters.
“Stand Up Guys” stars Christopher Walken, left, and Al Pacino.