By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
In 1979, Going in Style, a brash and exciting comedy about senior citizens boldly thumbing their noses at old age hit theaters to mostly critical acclaim. The film, which starred legendary actors George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, is actually a bit of a punk rock flick that keeps its story and plot relatively simple, but packs a wallop with a rebellious spirit. As typical in Hollywood, most original stories eventually get remade or updated in some way and Going in Style has received a 2017 treatment. Though not as ballsy or gangster as the original film, the new version starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin still has a little spunk of its own and a lot of heart.
Long-time friends and retirees Joe (Caine), Willie (Freeman), and Albert (Arkin) have come upon hard times. Their former employer has sold out to another company and the retirees, as a result, will lose their pensions which they rely on for their living expenses. After witnessing the effectiveness of an armed robbery at his bank, Joe suggests to his friends that they do something similar to alleviate their financial burdens. Reluctant at first, the other gentlemen eventually warm up to the idea as their individual situations worsen and they have little left to lose.
Written by Theodore Melfi (based on the screenplay of the 1979 film by Edward Cannon), and directed by Zach Braff, 2017’s Going in Style has a much lighter tone than that of the original film and does succeed in delivering laughs, but just cannot match the rebellious spirit or intelligent writing of the 1979 movie. This story has the usual structure of a heist movie, with motivational setups, an extensive amount of planning sequences, trial runs and failures, the execution and the aftermath. The original film gets right down to business and treats the heist as a courageous/stupid act of spontaneity with a stronger emotional gravity and a more realistic outcome. As I stated above, the new film has much heart and does make for an entertaining movie. The characters are highly lovable and witty and the cast performs well in these roles.
In addition to lead actors, the movie has great turns by Ann Margaret, Christopher Lloyd, Joey King, John Ortiz, and Keenan Thompson. Peter Serafinowicz also stars, but doesn’t really get to do much here and Matt Dillon portrays a typical movie FBI agent. The leads do shine, though with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman delivering some endearing and heartfelt performances and Arkin portraying the more hilarious, cantankerous personality of the three. Because this version has a lighter and fuzzier tone than the original film, these grumpy old men come across more like teddy bears and are not quite as brazen as Burns, Carney and Strasberg.
And if the original Going in Style is more like a punk rock song, this 2017 remake is the more mainstream, slickly produced rock version. The message is similar, but feels a bit more watered down so that it is more palatable for mass consumption. Don’t get me wrong. The end result is enjoyable, but lacks the punch and middle finger it had back in 1979.