Friday, March 15, 2013

Stand Up Guys

I haven't seen RED or The Expendables, so I can't speak to the relevance this new wave of what I'll call, if you'll let me, the Geriaction genre has to a movie like Stand Up Guys. I get the sense that any connection would be flimsy, though. Stand Up Guys is more of a tried-and-true buddy flick, a more thoughtful, crimeful Grumpy Old Men with a splash of The Bucket List. Al Pacino and Christopher Walken play aging hoods Val and Doc. After twenty-eight years in the clink, Val is coming back down the river, and Doc is there waiting for him. Doc hasn't done any dirt since his partner went away. He's spent his life watching cable TV, trying to eat healthy, and painting the sunsets; he's seemingly mellowed. But Doc's not the only one who's been waiting for Val to get out. Before going in, Val accidentally killed the son of a crime boss. He expected to be dealt with in prison, but the vengeance didn't come. And so a reunion turns into something of a last hurrah, and Val and Doc cram as much skullduggery as they can into what time they have left together. There's a sort of interesting double-play with this movie. It's a look at the people that characters are, and a look at people wanting one more taste at being characters.

By the late 90s you couldn't swing a samurai sword without nicking a movie one could qualify as Tarantinoesque. Every other flick seemed to be bad men bandying banalities, all set to a soundtrack so cool everyone in the theater was crab-eyeing through their shirts a little. This fad has mostly dissipated, that style having pretty much the last drop of vim sucked from it. However, Tarantino somewhat less notoriously popularized the rounding of theretofore mostly flat genre--or, pulp--characters. He wasn't the only one, but he was the most visible. All of a sudden we have once cucumber-cool jewel thieves arguing about Madonna, once stony hit men rattling on about international fast food and TV. Tarantino presented his gangsters as mostly regular people for whom gangsterism was a job they went home from at the end of the day. This narrative influence has been more long-lasting than the stylistic one, thank God.

Stand Up Guys is a small movie, a quieter and more solemn hour and a half than I assume those other geriaction movies are. And maybe the difference has something to do with that Tarantino influence. You will get some shoot'em up and car chases, but even these genre tropes come about as great effusions of sometimes winsome nostalgia. There's plenty of I'm old levity (read: boner pills) which can be a hoot when executed by heavies like these, but that penchant can sometimes subvert the more thoughtful alleys that the movie seems to want to go down. 

BONUS TRIVIA: Speaking of Tarantino, did you know that Quentin's dad, Tony Tarantino, is in a sort of troupe along with Al Pacino's dad, Sal Pacino? The name of that troupe? The Silver Foxes! Also in the group: Magic Johnson's mom, Cindy Crawford's mom, and Patsy Swayze, Patrick's mom. For the life of me, I can't figure out what this troupe is actually up to. See if you can make any sense of this description:
Together, the Silver Foxes represent a broad cross-section of ages, backgrounds, and abilities. The Silver Foxes work to turn around some of the negative stereotypes about aging and the resulting self-perceptions that adversely affect health and well-being. The Silver Foxes are about recognizing the importance of movement and keeping active no matter what level of ability you have. The Silver Foxes Community is also a research team that takes a holistic view in bringing people aged 50 and above the tools to maximize their body, mind and spirit power.
- Andrew

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