Stand Up Guys, a crime dramedy starring Al Pacino and Christopher Walken that hits theaters today, has an anemic 32 percent on Rotten Tomatoes — which I would argue is still far too generous for a movie that contains both creaky jokes about Viagra and a tasteless, out-of-nowhere gang rape subplot. Stand Up Guys begins as Pacino's character leaves prison after a 28-year stint and joins up with his best friend and fellow gangster (Christopher Walken), who has been ordered to kill Pacino's character by 10 a.m. the next morning. The two actors sleepwalk through one last night of crime and debauchery as they prepare for the inevitable end (which still doesn't manage to come soon enough).
You should not bother seeing Stand Up Guys. But that doesn't mean all of its ideas are bad. There are plenty of other, better movies that you can watch instead of Stand Up Guys — and you don't even need to go to the theater to do it:
If you want to see...
...two legendary actors go face-to-face in a crime drama, then watch 1995's Heat (available on Amazon Instant)
Stand Up Guys has been heavily marketed as a collaboration between Al Pacino and Christopher Walken, as if the mere presence of two legendary American actors is enough to make a film worth watching. But if Stand Up Guys fails to do anything interesting with Pacino and Walken, there is a film with a similar marketing approach that's well worth your time: Michael Mann's crime drama Heat, which saw Pacino play a police lieutenant attempting to take down a career criminal played by Robert De Niro. Pacino and De Niro each delivered one of his best late-career performances, and the scene in which they languidly square off at a diner carries all the weight that Stand Up Guys fails to bring.
...a movie about a man coming to terms with his impending death, then watch 1952's Ikiru (available on Hulu)
Stand Up Guys makes several unconvincing stabs at pathos as Pacino's character prepares for the end of his life. He spends much of the movie completing an irritatingly self-centered bucket list that includes eating tons of junk food, buying a new suit, and cavorting with prostitutes. But there are plenty of movies that deal with impending death in an honest and affecting way. If you don't feel like trudging out to the theater to see Michael Haneke's Best Picture-nominated Amour, stay in and watch Akira Kurosawa's classic Ikiru, in which a dying old man finds his purpose in the last year of his life.
...the movie that Stand Up Guys shamelessly cribs its best line of dialogue from, then watch 1988's They Live (available on Amazon Instant)
In Stand Up Guys, Pacino and Walken's characters share an inside joke: When Pacino says, "It's time to kick ass or chew gum, and guess what?" Walken replies, "I'm all out of gum." The joke would be funnier if it hadn't been stolen from John Carpenter's 1988 cult classic They Live, in which a drifter (Roddy Piper) discovers that the world is controlled by aliens who use subliminal messaging to control the human race. See the line, which was reportedly improvised by Piper, delivered in all its original glory:
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