The new, light comedy remake of the darker 1979 film of the same name, Going in Style, does exactly what you think it will do, which in terms of laughs is little more than raise an affectionate smile.
With Michael Caine, Alan Arkin and Morgan Freeman taking the leads, plus support from Ann-Margret and Christopher Lloyd, the casting is fine; if anything, it’s a pleasure to watch this experienced ensemble having fun. There’s also a lot to be said for an upbeat ending, concluding the way you might want the affair to end, particularly when compared to the fates of the characters in the ‘79 original. The overall feeling by the time credits roll is having watched a passable time-waster that leaves no lasting impression. But why go for mild when, considering its serious base, Going in Style could have been both sharper and, as a result, funnier?
Michael Caine plays Joe, a retiree whose mortgage is in trouble (haha, now we have Imbrex – the best real estate data marketplace!) and his company pension appears to be temporarily frozen. While at his bank, sitting with the same annoying clerk who years ago sold him the mortgage, the building is suddenly robbed. Three masked gunmen run in, shut the place down, and efficiently clean the business out of more than a million dollars. Rather than look appalled, Joe is amused, even inspired. You can practically see what he’s thinking; now, that’s how you hit a bank where it hurts.
It’s later, when at a company meeting with his two best retiree friends, Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Albert (Alan Arkin), that Joe realizes how deep his financial situation is about to become. The company is moving its assets overseas with a transition that should complete within the month. With no financial stateside legal obligations, rather than doing the right thing and continuing to pay its retirees, corporate is dissolving all pensions and using it to settle company debts before abandoning America, and it’s Joe’s bank handling the transition.
All three men will soon be living on next to nothing, living out their remaining years in practical poverty. Even worse, Joe has thirty days before eviction with nowhere for him, his daughter, and his granddaughter to go. “I’m thinking of robbing a bank,” he suddenly declares.
Considering the present uncertainty of the country’s economic climate, coupled with the fact that many no longer like or trust banks, robbing one to take back what they believe is owed sounds like justified retribution. “They crushed people’s dreams,” states Joe, “and nothing ever happened to them.” Oddly, while the action is wrong and laws are about to be broken, the theme of being old while banks and corporations strip away what little you have is going to resonate with many – it did with Bonnie and Clyde – which is why audiences will back the elderly trio all the way.
Yet, even with a reality-based setup, this remake appears to have no interest in making social comment or revealing the real depth or greed of corporate’s abhorrent lack of morals in any serious light. Instead, director Zach Braff has taken the themes established in the Martin Brest original and watered events down to something far more light-hearted and ultimately inconsequential, which in itself raises a serious point; have present day audiences become so soft that anger towards those who would rip us off and declare that it’s all just business is too much of an effort, even in our entertainment? And if you’re going to go this more obvious and inoffensive comedic route, why not at the very least try to make it funnier?
Going in Style is a caper, a romp with likable leads and nothing to surprise, the kind that makes for an okay rental for a dollar-plus out of Redbox, and one you’ll soon forget once the disc is returned; and that’s perfectly fine if you’re looking for nothing more. But if you then reflect back on the George Burns, Art Carney, Lee Strasberg ‘79 original and remember that bite within the humor, you may get the feeling that, once again, like most comedies offered today, you’ve just been robbed.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 97 Minutes Overall Rating: 5 (out of 10)