Mark Reviews Movies

Going in Style (2017)


1 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Zach Braff

Cast: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret, Joey King, Peter Serafinowicz, John Ortiz, Christopher Lloyd, Matt Dillon, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Kenan Thompson

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for drug content, language and some suggestive material)

Running Time: 1:36

Release Date: 4/7/17

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Review by Mark Dujsik | April 6, 2017

Completely missing the purpose and point of the 1979 original, Going in Style is a broadly comic caper movie that also misses an opportunity to let three great actors shine. It does that completely on its own, without any comparison to the original film.

What previously was a compassionate story about aging and imminent mortality, which just happened to feature a bank robbery in the second act, has been turned into the story of a lengthy buildup to a bank robbery. The characters here—all in their 70s—speak of death, not as a certainty, but as a minor inconvenience of sorts. They're too angry about a failing industrial sector, refinanced mortgages, shady dealings with company pension plans, and corporate outsourcing to really care about something, in the movie's mind, as insignificant as death. Possible death is a subplot in Theodore Melfi's screenplay, and that's about it.

The tone is one of some cloying version of "Old Folks Do the Darndest Things," with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin acting like complete fools, until a recap of the robbery shows us just how competent and full of foresight they actually are. It's become a staple of movies such as this one—the sequence in which we see just how smart the criminals are after the fact, instead of trying to create tension from the mechanics of the crime. It's especially irritating in this case, because it means that these characters have been hiding just how able and clever they are. It's either that, or the Melfi would rather attempt to show how clever he is in cleaning up the apparent flaws in the robbery, instead of creating characters who are at least consistent in their capacity to pull off a heist worth more than $2 million.

Joe (Caine), Willie (Freeman), and Al (Arkin) have been friends since they worked together at a local steel plant. Joe's home, which is across the street from the house where Willie and Al are roommates, is about to go into foreclosure. While at the bank's local branch to debate the decision, a trio of men rob the place, and a wicked smile passes across Joe's face after the men get away with a load of cash.

He puts the idea of robbing the bank to Willie, who is suffering from severe kidney problems and has a daughter and granddaughter whom he can only visit once a year, and Al, who gave up his dreams of playing saxophone and a family for a steady job. They're hesitant, but once their old steel mill announces that all pensions will be cancelled, they, like Joe, decide that they have nothing to lose.

If they succeed, they'll have enough money to live out the rest of their lives. If they fail, they'll be in prison with three meals a day, free housing, and better medical care than they're receiving now.

There's plenty of real-world anxiety behind the new version's setup (One will recall that the robbers in the original film pulled off the heist because of the sheer boredom of being older), but it's all simply part of the setup. Melfi doesn't continue the ideas of the first act once the planning of the robbery is underway, except some of the usual diatribes about the greed and legal protection of the big banks.

The central point is to put the characters into a situation that is, apparently, beyond their means and to watch them sweat. The movie's comic centerpiece is not the bank robbery but an earlier attempt at petty shoplifting, in which Joe and Willie try to stuff food into their clothes—a tin of ham inside a coat and a pork loin down a pant leg. The joke is that they're kind of dumb, pretty clumsy, and slow to run away (Joe steals a motorized scooter from a woman with her own mobility issues, leading to a medium-speed chase down a busy street—a particularly awkward scene, as staged by director Zach Braff, even by the movie's generally awkward standards). The rest of the planning is all talk about these potential complications with Jesus (John Ortiz), who offers to help them for a quarter of the booty, while the guys insist that they're not the sort of stereotypes that Melfi makes them out to be.

It's not much of a joke, and there's even less attempt to make these characters into more than easy punch lines (Willie's health issues, a character played by Ann-Margret wooing a reluctant Al, and Joe's relationship with his granddaughter, played by Joey King). All of it makes Going in Style a particularly inferior remake and pretty bad on its own.

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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