Al Pacino Deserves Better Than Stand-Up Guys


Based on what Al Pacino suffers in Stand Up Guys and the identical humiliations visited upon Robert De Niro in Little Fockers, it seems that Hollywood will not be satisfied until it has speared a hypodermic into the pill-engorged erection of every remaining leading man of the 1970s. In Pacino’s case, he’s an old-timer gangster named Val just released from lockup. His pal Doc (Christopher Walken) takes him to a brothel. Val gulps down a mouthful of Bob Dole pills, and, yes, the star of Dog Day Afternoon winds up in a hospital bed, the sheets rigged up with some pitch-a-tent prosthetic hard-on. And, yes, a doctor must prick said hard-on with a needle on loan from the Saw movies. There is a plot to all this. The crime lord who rules this any-city has charged Walken’s Doc with offing Pacino’s Val immediately upon Val’s release. But the movie is really about the slow-demolition process of old men aging in the public eye. Pacino’s face has puddled, now all jowl and whisker, and his voice has taken on a wet rasping undertone somewhere between cat purr and the coring of cabbages. He yaps and yaps but with little of the old power. Walken, meanwhile, has stiffened into himself, becoming more funny without losing what’s imposing in him. Here he even manages to seem a bit wise as he carries on his lifelong exploration of English-language syllables, each of which he pauses over, briefly considers, and seems to find is not a clean fit for the next. Of all the ’70s-made men who have been made, by age, into comic figures, only Walken seems in control of what makes him funny.