I had only seen the trailer to this film twice, and that was just a day prior seeing it. I liked the concept immediately. A gangster goes to prison, does his time in an honorable manner, by never saying a word about anything related to the crime that got him clipped. And because his (crime) boss "Claphands," played by Al Pacino's "Scarface" co-star, Mark Margolis, is a sociopath and (unjustly) blames "Val," played by Pacino, for his (boss's) son's death, Val has to be taken out by his buddy and former partner-in-crime "Doc," played by Christopher Walken.
I love the irony of that. And I also understand the "no-good-deed-goes-unpunished" aspect-of-life and how it relates to this story, too. Just because you do the "right thing" in life, it does not guarantee you will be rewarded for that act. It may be that you need to catch up with karma. And in the case of this film, Karma may have been the name of a prostitute who was off the night Val and Doc came a callin'. "Wendy," played by Lucy Punch, added some humor as did "Oxana," played by Katheryn Winnick, when they took Val and Doc's (willfully) kidnapped buddy, "Hirsch," played by Alan Arkin, upstairs for a spin, coming back completely delirious from the experience.
"Nina Hirsch," played by Julianna Margulies, also provided some support with her role as a... nurse? I thought that character was integral to the story in that it she provided that link from the every day world to that underworld, and showed that everyone is human, no matter what their chose profession may be, even if that chosen profession just happens to be gangster. Also, making her a nurse showed me the writers wanted to show the audience the nuance between life and death, and how both professions deal with dying or death; like professionals.
The writers did a nice job poking fun at the pharmaceutical companies as well, when Val and Doc broke into a pharmacy for "Hypertension" pills. And there is some crossover as their boss does not provide much health insurance for either one of them (especially Walken's character) and neither does America's Bosses, either. But enough about politics. The review I read in the East Bay Express I did not agree with. One part in particular, in fact:
"but it's also easy to see that screenwriter Noah Haidle doesn't give the three pros anything worthwhile to say or do."
Um... I totally disagree with that statement. No offense to the man or woman who wrote that review, but I couldn't disagree with that take more. First off, Val just got out of prison as an elderly man. He could get his A.A.R.P. (American Association of Retired Persons) card upon exiting the prison facility. Doc was also the same age, as was Hirsch, so these guys would not be all that active. Walken's character pointed to that in the film when he said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "I keep it simple; it's not all that exciting," pointing to how there is no excitement in his life and he is enjoying his winding down and near retirement, which is not offered all that much in that industry. The fact that there are four gangsters in this film of this age, and three of them are still in that line of work, makes the story stretch a little bit, but not enough for me to slough it off as bad.
The acting alone held up any perceived flaw in the script, I thought.
And they did have things to do... and did them! In spades, actually. Observant film goers will get what that previous sentence means, other than superficially. I liked everything about this movie. There was also a little [Quentin] Tarantino in this film as well. No, he did not participate in the production of this film in any way, I believe, but there was influence there. The soundtrack was influenced by him, it seems. A couple songs, anyway. And a scene where "Sylvia," played by yet another gorgeous female in this film, Vanessa Ferlito, gets her payback also reminded me of a previous scene of a film of QT's. Veteran Moviegoers will watch this film and know what I am referring, especially QT fans.
Again, I loved this film. I loved the message the writers sent. I loved the acting. All of the Veteran Actors in this film were at their very best, I believe. And there was plenty enough humor in this film to keep it going. I laughed aloud at least ten times in this movie. Some of it was subtle, other times it was more obvious... some of the more obvious jokes weren't all that great, I thought. The subtle stuff, though... minus the boner, that is.
I recommend this film for those of you who did like the film "Space Cowboys" or "Tough Guys." Because I liked both those films, and liked this one as well. There is something about guys a little too long in the tooth who didn't appreciate what they had when they were young, and then they get a last chance to realize it and reflect on it before they go out on their own terms. There's something poetic about it. And isn't that why we go to the movies? One reason, anyway? To live vicariously through people who we think have it "glamorous," but instead it is actually sort of ordinary, even if the gig is dangerous?
-James Richard Armstrong II