Fisher Stevens hasn't directed a lot of movies, but he shows veteran savvy with his work in "Stand Up Guys."
He's smart enough to know that when you have actors like Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin, the best thing to do is point the camera and let the masters do their jobs.
Pacino buries himself in the character of Val, a longtime criminal who's just done a stint in prison. His best friend and partner in crime, Doc (Walken), is waiting for him when he gets released.
Doc's there out of friendship, but also to pay off a debt. His loyalty leaves him divided and confused.
Events roll out over one night as Doc makes sure Val gets re-acquainted with some of the pleasures of life.
The so-so script from Noah Haidle often slips into juvenile humor that's unnecessary when dealing with such veteran performers.
Even when the story seems too slow, Pacino and Walken have enough energy to keep things from getting dull.
The acting titans are so good together they make it almost impossible for Arkin, whose Hirsch joins the pair well into their one-night adventure.
He's an outsider who only gets close to the acting party being thrown by Pacino and Walken.
The movie's at its strongest when it focuses on how it is for two longtime good friends to face a future they never expected to see.
Dealing with the trials and tribulations of aging doesn't quit fit into the lifestyle of these bad boys, but it's staring them in their wrinkled faces.
Fisher gives the actors a rich backdrop in which to play.
The use of minimal or natural light creates a slight film noir look, but never to the point of melodrama.
He layers on a stylish soundtrack that gives the movie a timeless feel.
No matter how much skill Stevens shows as a director, it's the actors who make this a mature, sensitive and direct look at how a friendship can endure through time and all outside forces.
Watching "Stand Up Guys" is a lot like watching a tennis match today between Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase.
They may have lost a half-step over the years, but they are such good performers that even a half-step slower is better than much of what you see out there.
"Stand Up Guys,"rated R for language, sexual content. Stars Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Julianna Margulies, Lucy Punch. Directed by Fisher Stevens. Running time: 104 minutes. Grade: B Other movie reviews
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org
or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.