Stand Up Guys

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Stand Up Guys Movie Poster Image
Amusing but vulgar, violent "old school" crime comedy.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 95 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Much of the movie relies on iffy behavior with few consequences, but one character must decide between committing murder to protect his own safety and protecting his best friend instead; he chooses loyalty and friendship. The movie also deals with the idea of "consequences" for some bullies who've mistreated a woman, though it translates into simple revenge.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Most of the characters are criminals or lowlifes of some kind; the "good guys" are simply less awful than others. But one secondary character, a waitress in an all-night diner, demonstrates kindness and patience, and the movie shows the rewards that this can have and how far acts of kindness can go.


The violence doesn't really pick up until about halfway through the movie, after that there's plenty of it, including punching and fighting, shooting, and blood. A man is smashed in the crotch, and the movie climaxes with a bullet-ridden shootout. A main character dies. There are also heavy threats and suggestions of violence in the dialogue. A doctor plunges a hypodermic needle into a character's penis (off screen) after that character takes too much Viagra.


The main characters visit a brothel. One takes extra amounts of Viagra (only referred to as "boner pills") and sleeps with a prostitute off screen. A second character sleeps with two women at once, a prostitute and the woman at the front desk, both off screen (and without Viagra). A naked woman is found in a car trunk, but she's filmed curled up so that nothing is shown. Also very strong innuendo throughout, such as when a main character tries to pick up three women in a bar.


Very strong language includes many uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "whore," "ass," "a--hole," "d--k," "boner," "damn," "goddamn," "oh my God," and "pecker."


Viagra plays a big role in the movie, though it's not mentioned by name specifically.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters stay up all night and drink a lot of alcohol. They also break into a pharmacy and steal several bottles of prescription pills (mostly for things like cataracts and hypertension). One character breaks open some of these pills and snorts them. A main character is seen smoking cigarettes on more than one occasion.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stand Up Guys is a crime comedy starring Christopher WalkenAl PacinoAlan Arkin as three septuagenarian criminals who are reunited over one long night. Questions of loyalty and consequences come up from time to time, though the movie doesn't explore these themes very deeply. Violence is an issue, with a fair amount of fighting, punching, shooting, and blood. There's also sexual content: Characters take Viagra and have sex with prostitutes (off screen), one character sleeps with two women at once (also off screen), and a woman is found naked in a trunk, though no sensitive body parts are shown. Language is strong, with multiple uses of "s--t," "f--k," and more. Characters drink plenty of alcohol and smoke cigarettes over the course of their long night, and they have a supply of prescription pills. (One character breaks open the capsules and experiments with snorting them.) Teens may not be interested in this story of older guys, but those who are need to be mature enough to handle the content.

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What's the story?

When Val (Al Pacino) is released from a long prison term, his old friend Doc (Christopher Walken) is there to pick him up. Unfortunately, Doc has an agenda. A crime boss has ordered Doc to kill Val as payback for an accidental murder committed years earlier. Val eventually figures out what Doc is up to, but they quietly decide to spend a final night on the town instead, going so far as to kidnap another old pal, Hirsch (Alan Arkin), from a rest home. As the night wears on -- with eating, drinking, hooking up with prostitutes, smoking, stealing cars, getting into fights, etc. -- the question looms ever larger: What is Doc going to do?

Is it any good?

Stand Up Guys seems like a throwback to the 1990s, walking in the footsteps of both Pulp Fiction and Grumpy Old Men. But happily, director Fisher Stevens is a character actor himself -- in addition to being an Oscar-winning producer (The Cove) -- and he lovingly coaxes relaxed, organic performances from the three great veteran performers. They have an easy chemistry together, and they actually seem to have years of history together. Their unspoken language and shorthand is perhaps even more effective than the scripted dialogue.

The movie also develops a low-key tone, which downplays the very obvious gags, such as the overdose of Viagra, and all the "old guy vs. young guy" barbs. Many viewers will probably feel that the material is overall too slight to warrant much enthusiasm -- for example, it's nowhere near as sharp as Seven Psychopaths -- but for many others it will be an amiable time-waster, capable of producing many smiles.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Stand Up Guysviolence. How frequently is it shown? How does it build up over the course of the story? How much of it is necessary to the story?

  • How does the movie depict drinking and smoking? Are there any consequences? How else do the characters indulge themselves? What do they do that's good for them?

  • In one scene, the characters discuss "consequences" for bullies' actions. What do these consequences consist of? Is this a good way to deal with bullies?

  • The movie has several jokes and lines about "old school" tactics over "new" things. Are there certain old ways that are better than new ways? What about the other way around?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedies

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