Stand Up Guys
Christopher Walken (Doc) gets into his old beat-up Buick and drives to the prison to pick up his old friend Val (Al Pacino). Val has just done 28 years hard time, because heís not a snitch. Heís a stand-up guy. He was involved in a police shoot-out with his old gang and he was the only one captured. The rest escaped. And he never ratted them out. Not even for the promise of a lesser sentence.
But what should have been golden currency in the underworld actually is not. The kingpin, named Claphands (Mark Margolis) had a son who was on that job, too, and somehow managed to get himself killed, and Claphands blames Val. Sure, Claphands could have ordered the hit in prison. But he figured he would make Val suffer more by serving every minute of the hard time, and then getting whacked his first day out. And Claphands knows just the guy to do it: yeah, you guessed it, Doc.
Doc is actually Valís last and only friend. But Doc, now ďretiredĒ and living a mild-mannered life as a sometime landscape painter in a small dingy apartment, is in a tough situation here. Claphands has threatened his life if he doesnít do it. And this career thug doesnít make idle threats. So there it is. Docís got the handgun, and Val is too savvy not to know the subtext of all the squiring around, taking him wherever he wants to go. And really, Val doesnít hold it against his old buddy. A job is a job, right? But letís have a day together first. And what a day it is.
We old guys love it when we see the old guys on the big screen, kicking butt and taking names. Sure, Val and Doc are criminals, and donít mind a bit stealing a car, just because itís better than the one they have, or breaking and entering, just to get some medication they needed, or perhaps a new suit of clothes, because they can. But they get indignant when their paths cross with a young lady who was summarily kidnapped and unceremoniously assaulted in a garage, just like she was a worthless nobody who didnít matter, who could be used and discarded. That offended the sensibilities of our knights in tarnished armor.
You gotta love it when they spring their old buddy Hirsch (Alan Arkin), the guy who was always the driver, out of the prison they call a retirement home. Now itís starting to feel like old times. Of course itís unrealistic that they would all ďget on the drop onĒ the younger thugs and hoodlums. But hey, sometimes the old guys make up in cunning, stealth, and audacity what they now lack in speed, agility, and quickness. Like the Good Book says, the race isnít always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong (Ecclesiastes 9:11). And speaking of the Good Book, how great is it that Val and Doc quote Corinthians to each other in the seedy pool hall? Or that Doc honors a last-minute request of Valís to go by the confessional booth at the cathedral and at least take a last stab at it? (ďBless me, Father, for I have sinned. Itís been 40 years since my last confession, give or take.Ē)
Yeah, theyíre characters, and thatís what we love about them. Here, at last, is a tongue-in-cheek action/buddy movie for us old guys. Enjoy it while they can still remember their lines and not make fools of themselves. Come to think of it, making a fool of yourself, just one more time, just might be part of the fun.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephenís Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas