Going in Style (2017)
96 min., rated PG-13.
1993’s “Grumpy Old Men” and 1995’s “Grumpier Old Men.” 1997’s “Out to Sea.” 2000’s “Space Cowboys” and “The Crew.” 2013’s “Last Vegas.” One can count on more than one hand the number of comedies revolving around old fogies going back to their youth and the good old days, and by now, it is a moldy genre all its own. “Going in Style,” however, is a remake of the 1979 comedy that starred George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, and with the likes of today’s acting legends, this comedic caper with a timely of-our-times backdrop goes down pretty gently. Surprises are few in 2017's inconsequential, albeit amiable, “Going in Style,” but director Zach Braff (2014’s “Wish I Was Here”) and screenwriter Theodore Melfi (2016’s “Hidden Figures”) have such an unbeatable trio set in place that it makes the filmmakers’ jobs that much easier.
Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman), and Al (Alan Arkin) are retired Brooklyn seventysomethings who have been friends for more than thirty years. When Joe learns that the mortgage payment on his house has tripled, he hopes to settle the situation at his bank, where at the same moment three men rob the place. In awe of the robbers' skill as a witness, Joe flirts with the idea of pulling off a heist with his two pals, particularly once it’s announced that their former steel mill is freezing all pensions. Roommates Willie and Al initially think Joe is just joking, but once realizing that they have nothing left to lose—the former needs a kidney transplant and only sees his daughter and granddaughter via Skype, and the latter could just use one last hurrah—these two get on board. Even if they get caught and thrown in prison, at least Joe, Willie, and Al can go out with a bang and then have free housing and better medical care.
Unlike the hacky, overly unctuous “Last Vegas" (which also starred Morgan Freeman), “Going in Style” does not feel the need to pander and constantly reach the lowest-common-denominator. Though the humor does often fall into easy shtick, this is decidedly the better film of the two. It should hardly be a rarity, but one can count their blessings that this one is mercifully free of Viagra jokes and technological ineptitude (i.e. none of the fellas are confused by iPhones or how to operate a computer). Amidst the shenanigans played for laughs, the one nugget of truth in Theodore Melfi’s script is the fact that our three protagonists of a certain age are experiencing a financial crisis in today’s zeitgeist, so, of course, they see it as more than a lark to rob a bank and take back what is theirs.
Grade: C +