Tough guys don’t dance (Stand Up Guys movie review)

What do retired gangsters do? Fisher Stevens, the director of the movie ‘Stand Up Guys’, presents them as a people who are extremely irresponsible. The vision of death that seems to be standing nearby is more grotesque than tragic. Three old friends do not negate its existence. They don’t run away. They just want to stay cool till the very end. Being a stand-up guy doesn’t depend on age.

‘Stand Up Guys’ is a bitter, ironic movie that – paradoxically – focuses on the bright side of life. Presented reality may be not cheerful, but it has its charm. Three retired gangsters, who only partially accept their little disabilities, seem to be walking embodiments of a male charm. Their awkwardness and clumsiness is as captivating as funny. Their hearts seems to be as crazy as their minds. The director comes back to the tradition of old gangsters movies, in which dark past goes hand in hand with prepossessing kindness and surprising brilliancy. Old gangsters (in contrast to the dark characters of noir cinema) were good guys who sometimes do bad things. We meet their new incarnations in Stevens’ movie.

Al Pacino, Christopher Walkeni and Alan Arkin are playing three criminals, who represent the world that respects rules and honour (what’s important – in this case honour isn’t a synonym of a poorly understand pride that becomes a justification for violence/aggression, but of morality and a need to do right things).  For this reason the whole movie seems to be subversive – we face here a reversed order. Representants of the criminal world are the right guards at the same time. They uphold friendship and trust. They know that loyalty can make people fly.

The whole movie is composed of – sometimes funny, sometimes touching – short scenes that form a coherent plot. The director focuses not only on the pains and joys of being and retried gangster, but also analyses more universal problems. He tells the story of dealing with freedom, which is full of traps, after years of prison, and – last but not least – he creates believable portraits of three guys who are trying – in a more or less funny way – deal with changes in their aging bodies and minds. They also learn how to live in the world from which people that they love are slowly disappearing.

‘Stand Up Guys’ is a great comedy that is full of both – brilliant gags and cracking dialogues. It could be also described as a praise of friendship, and as a peaceful vision of aging that is neither easy nor dramatically traumatic.