When you have a great screenplay, the talent shows up. Screenwriter Noah Haidle has crafted a story that is sure to become a classic. Stand Up Guys stars Academy Award winners Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin in an action-comedy about senior citizen gangsters reunited after one of them spent 28 years in prison.
Val (Al Pacino) is the story’s protagonist. As the film begins we see him being processed out of prison, intercut with scenes of his best friend Doc (Christopher Walken) preparing to pick him up. When they get back to Doc’s apartment, we get a hint of the films central problem. Doc has a gun and it looks like he wants to shoot Val, but he hesitates. Instead of shooting Val, Doc takes him out on the town for a night of good times which turn into comic misadventures. Along the way, they find their old getaway car driver, Hirsch (Alan Arkin).
Early in the evening, Val stops at a church for confession. The priest tells him that “three Hail Marys” are not going to earn him enough forgiveness for what he has done. Though Mary can’t save Val, as the three old hoods proceed through the evening, they meet other ladies who help them find redemption.
Pacino, Walkin and Arkin are supported in small but memorable roles by Julianna Margulies, Lucy Punch, Vanessa Ferlito and Addison Timlin. The ladies' characters serve to reconnect the trio with their youth and their mortality and give them a chance to set right some of their past sins.
One of their attempts at recapturing their youth sends Val to the hospital (with one of those side-effects they warn you about in Viagra commercials). There they encounter Nurse Nina Hirsch (Margulies), the daughter of their driver. We are given a look into their souls, as they recollect Nina’s tenth birthday. “Remember,” Doc says, “I tossed you in the air.” Nina recalls that it made her feel like she was free and flying. Later, they share a special moment with her and her father which reveals Val’s deeper side.
When they visit the local whorehouse, Val swears he remembers the madame (Punch). Doc intervenes and says that Val is actually remembering her mother. Later, on another visit, Punch’s character helps Hirsch mark something off his bucket list.