FILM REVIEW – GOING IN STYLE. With Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman, Ann-Margret, Christopher Lloyd. Written by Theodore Melfi. Directed by Zach Braff. Rated PG-13 for drug content, language and some suggestive material. 96 minutes.
If you’ve seen the 1979 film GOING IN STYLE, you’ll remember the casting of Art Carney, George Burns, and Lee Strasberg as three old-timers who decide to rob a bank. It was a bittersweet comedy, and while watchable because of the stars, it was not the best showcase for any of them. Thus, a remake nearly 40 years later isn’t so shocking, especially when the three leads are Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, and Morgan Freeman. Individually, they can make a dull film worth watching. Together, we just sit there and consider ourselves lucky that we can still enjoy their work.
The premise remains contrived. Three retirees who are barely making ends meet discover that their former employer has been sold and their pension fund looted. They decide to rob the bank that is making the deal possible. Director Zach Braff (who is also an actor but doesn’t appear here) and screenwriter Theodore Melfi (coming off the triumph of “Hidden Figures”) saw what the flaw was in the original movie. Given our sympathies for the characters, we’re not looking for irony, we’re looking for satisfaction. The original ending was a downer which might have been realistic but was also the only note of realism in the film. It was out of place.
Here we get an ending that leaves us smiling, with not one but several twists along the way. A lot of it has to do with simply getting out of the way and letting three professionals do their stuff. Alan Arkin plays the cantankerous Albert, who is skeptical about being able to pull off the robbery and is equally skeptical of the attentions of Annie (a still stunning Ann-Margret), yet allows himself to be convinced on both counts. Morgan Freeman is Willie, who would love to see his daughter and granddaughter more than once a year and is also facing his mortality in the absence of a kidney transplant. And then there’s Joe played by Michael Caine, an actor who has transitioned from the leading man of his youth to an irresistable character player today. Joe is devoted to his granddaughter (Joey King), and is facing he prospect of losing the house where she and her mother live with him.
The lead-up to the heist is played for laughs, particularly in a practice “robbery” at the local supermarket. When it finally takes place it goes like clockwork, with even the unexpected events working out. In the end, the script is a bit too clever and neat, but by then you’ll be so charmed by the three principals that it won’t matter. Also along for the ride is Christopher Lloyd, as the head of the local senior center, whose character seems liked an aged version of Jim Ignatowski, his dazed cab driver from “Taxi.” Matt Dillon is the FBI agent trying to solve the case and he works hard at making his character as unsympathetic as possible.
“Going in Style” is no more destined to be a classic than the original was. Instead, it’s a film where we get to enjoy three of our finest elder actors showing just how easy they can make it all look.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.