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Going in Style (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

Going in Style


Starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret, Joey King, Matt Dillon, Christopher Lloyd, Kenan Thompson, John Ortiz, Peter Serafinowicz, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Maria Dizzia, Katlyn Carlson, Josh Pais, Melanie Nicholls-King, Camiel Warren-Taylor, Doris McCarthy, Jeremy Bobb, Ashley Aufderheide, Chris Carfizzi and Lolita Foster.

Screenplay by Theodore Melfi.

Directed by Zach Braff.

Distributed by Focus Features. 96 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Going in Style is the latest addition to the list of old movies to be remade because… well, why not? It may make someone some money.

The original Going in Style was not a big hit. In fact, it was a box office disappointment at the time of its release in 1979. It was not overly critically acclaimed. The film has not become particularly beloved in the decades since. It never really had much of a cable or video renaissance. It was out of print for years before getting re-released late last year in anticipation of the remake, even then it is only available on Warner Brothers’ rarities specialty imprint Warner Archive Collection.

So why are they remaking Going in Style again?

Well, the one thing Going in Style did have going for it was a somewhat clever plot hook (three octogenarians plotting a bank robbery). The story offered juicy leading roles for beloved actors over a certain age. In the original 1979 film, those somewhat hard-to-cast elderly actors were George Burns (fresh off of Oh God!), Art Carney (who had won a Best Actor Oscar five years earlier for Harry & Tonto) and Lee Strasberg (who was better known as a legendary acting teacher than as an actor.)

This time around the retirement-aged stars are even more impressive: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin. Then they added in Ann-Margret, to give yet another iconic-but-underused older actor a good job. Then they tossed in a couple of other great but slightly past their sell-by date names – Matt Dillon and Christopher Lloyd.

Okay, you’ve got our attention with that cast.

But then you hire actor Zach Braff (Scrubs) as a gun-for-hire director. Braff has had a rather hit-or-miss career behind the camera making his own films, Garden State (which took the interesting jaunt from critical darling to critical punching bag over a few-year period) and Wish I Were Here (which no one liked from the jump).

So what does this mean for Going in Style? Is Ann-Margret going to tell Alan Arkin that a Shins song will change his life? Or will Braff downplay his normal millennial angst and realize this is a formula plot with a great cast which could play the roles in their sleep, he should just stay out of the way and let the magic happen?

Braff mostly does let his cast do the heavy lifting, and of course they are up to it. Too bad Theodore Melfi’s lightweight screenplay doesn’t give them all that much help. But, thanks to these great old pros, you have a tendency to overlook the gaping plot holes and just enjoy the company of three old, dear friends.

Joe (Caine), Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin) are retirees living in Queens, New York. They are long-time friends who have lived across the street from each other in a newly gentrified neighborhood for over 50 years. Joe is living with his daughter and cute granddaughter (Joey King). Willie and Albert are sharing a brownstone.

They had worked together in the same factory for many of those years. As the story starts, the corporation that owns the factory announces that they are freezing and closing all pensions and insurance, so after a life of working hard for the company, the three men are stranded with no income except for social security, which is way too low to live on.

Willie has some serious medical problems which could easily kill him, but Medicare will not pay enough for treatment. Albert is jaded about relationships, despite the fact that a local divorcee (Ann-Margret) is basically throwing herself at him.

Joe has also been fooled into an adjustable-rate mortgage, and suddenly his mortgage payments have tripled. He goes into the bank to try to stop his house from being foreclosed upon, and gets caught in the middle of an armed bank robbery.

After surviving this ordeal, a desperate Joe decides that is the only way to save his home. Despite the fact they have no idea how to go about a bank robbery, he eventually talks his friends into joining in on the scheme.

Ironically, this heartfelt movie about common folk sticking it to the heartless bureaucrats who gutted their pensions and sold them predatory mortgages has among its executive producers a guy named Steven Mnuchin. Mnuchin is a former hedge fund manager who was recently named Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury, where he has made it his full-time job to try to undo the safety nets that protect common folk from heartless bureaucrats who gut their pensions and sell them predatory mortgages.

But that’s not a feel-good ending, and Going in Style is all about the feel-good endings.

And deservedly so. This movie is an escape from the problems of everyday life, not an expose on them. Going in Style is certainly not a deep look at the problems of hard-working seniors in the modern world, but thanks to its magical cast it is always a pretty lovable one.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: April 7, 2017.

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