American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Sometimes it's all about the casting. The notice of a screening came around, I read the names Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin, and it didn't matter in a way what the movie was about — although it didn't hurt that it was a crime movie.
Apart from any objective ranking of the actors, Walken is a spice in any screenplay, and in "Stand Up Guys," there's room for at least as much spice as goulash. Director Fisher Stevens begins with a permissive screenplay by Noah Haidle that exists in no particular city, for no particular reason other than to give the actors the pleasure of riffing through more or less standard set-pieces.
Consider first the city. I know where it was filmed, but that information is a distraction. This is a generic city. A city like the city in "Sunrise," which feathers out into shadows and defeat. It is hardly even populated. In a plot that takes the guys into the night and the next morning, the characters seem to be nighthawks, framed by an empty space. They hang out in a diner with hardly any customers, they drive on streets with hardly any cars, and when they visit a brothel, hardly anyone seems to care about sex.
That the brothel visit involves Al Pacino with Viagra is inevitable, I guess, and the drug's results are so exaggerated here that physical laws seem to be violated. There is also a wacky chase scene with Alan Arkin transferring more or less from lying a hospital bed to racing behind a wheel of a sports car. And a bad guy named Claphands (Mark Margolis) who exists entirely to fuel the plot. How do you get a name like Claphands? If it's a nickname, how do I know it's not about applause?