×

Film Review: ‘Going in Style’

Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin are the actors you want to see as Brooklyn codgers who rob a bank, but this remake of the 1979 caper substitutes shtick for experience.

With:
Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Joey King, Matt Dillon, Ann-Margret, Christopher Lloyd, Kenan Thompson, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, John Ortiz, Peter Serafinowicz.
Release Date:
Apr 7, 2017

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2568862/

In “Going in Style,” the 1979 Hollywood fable of old age in America that’s still remembered with a certain scrappy fondness, George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg play brittle old fogies who team up to rob a bank, but it wouldn’t be quite accurate to call the result “a heist movie.” The three hatch their crime as a way to escape loneliness, and to get their juices flowing — to rage against the dying of the light — and the robbery itself is mostly a ramshackle joke, with our cranky stooped codgers barely disguised by Groucho glasses.

The slick new remake of “Going in Style,” on the other hand, really is a heist movie. Our heroes, now played by Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, team up to rob the Williamsburg Savings Bank in their native Brooklyn, and we see them prepping for the crime in a full-on, split-screen montage of strategic training rituals. They work out a meticulous alibi, mingling with friends during a charity carnival and slipping away just long enough to execute the robbery. And when they finally enter the bank, wearing rubber masks of the Rat Pack (Frank, Dino, and Sammy), they don’t carry themselves like old folks. They could be veteran crooks out of any of the hundreds of heist films made over the last decades. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to watch the crime — there’s a satisfaction to seeing a heist executed without a hitch — but at the new “Going in Style,” we’re less in the real world than we are in Movie World, a place of processed crime and processed drama.

The movie is a feel-good concoction: not a terrible way to spend 96 minutes, but not an entertainment experience that anyone’s going to remember in 38 years, or maybe even next week. The picture was directed by Zach Braff, who as a filmmaker has only two features to his credit, the soulful romantic cult film “Garden State” (2004) and the navel-gazing SoCal mess “Wish I Was Here” (2014). After the debacle of that last film, Braff, in theory, was right to sign up as a gun for hire on a crowdpleaser like this one. If only he’d brought it a bit more personality and panache! Rocked the boat a little! “Going in Style” coasts along on the testy spiky charms of its leading men, who have 246 years of life on earth between them (Caine is 84, Freeman 79, and Arkin 83), but this is nothing more than an amiable connect-the-dots movie. If anything, it makes the 1979 “Going in Style” look even more audacious, like a comedy about three King Lears.

The new version draws on up-to-the-minute themes of economic outrage, but in a way that’s so cautious and market-tested it’s as if the filmmakers had pushed a button marked “add incendiary topical issue here.” Joe (Caine), Willie (Freeman), and Albert (Arkin) are old pals who toiled together for decades at the Wechsler Steel Co. and are now living on comfortable — if modest — pensions. Joe is putting up his divorced daughter and granddaughter, so that they can save for college; Willie and Albert are roommates who have shared a house for 25 years. But their lives come tumbling down when Wechsler, following a corporate merger, ships its manufacturing overseas and dissolves its pension fund.

There’s more than enough ripped-from-the-news material here to root “Going in Style” in the current moment, but one of the problems with the movie is that by checking off these issues, the film acts as if it’s done its dramatic work. What it doesn’t do is give the characters an individualized sense of having emerged from the past. They’re just Grumpy Old Sitcom Men.

But often irresistible ones. Caine is the star who makes a slightly deeper impression. His Joe is the group’s ringleader, and that’s because he has had to endure a double scandal: In addition to the trashing of his pension (which, if our government were less tethered to corporate money, would be unambiguously illegal), he got suckered by the bank into a radically adjustable mortgage, which has shot up to the point that he’s about to lose his home. Caine, who has done many middling movies but isn’t capable of phoning in a performance even when he’s trying to, reacts to all of this with a witty cold anger that is only heightened by age. Freeman, whose character is more or less defined by his need for a kidney transplant, is the mellow one, and Arkin, as the whistling-past-the-gallows Albert, seems the most hopeless — at least, until he gets caught up in a flirtation with Annie, played by Ann-Margret, who at 75 still has her extraordinary saucy radiance. Let’s call their romance a senior-citizen fairy tale.

Who is the audience for “Going in Style”? Adults, older or not, who want to see a caper movie pitched to the bucket-list set. Yet it’s worth recalling that in 1979, at least one member of the cast of “Going in Style” — Burns — was in the midst of a career revival that straddled all demos. (That same year, he costarred with Brooke Shields in “Just You and Me, Kid.”) Caine, Freeman, and Arkin are actors who long ago proved that they transcend age. But the “Going in Style” remake is an example of how “likable” prefab filmmaking can shoot itself in the foot. The movie will probably find a modest audience for a weekend or two, but it could have been so much bigger if it didn’t reduce senior citizens to sympathetic data cards. If it truly gave us something to see.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Going in Style'

Reviewed at Cinépolis Chelsea, New York, April 6, 2017. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 96 MIN.

Production: A Warner Bros. release of a New Line Cinema production, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune, and De Line Pictures. Producer: Donald De Line. Executive producers: Bruce Berman, Tony Bill, Samuel J Brown, Michael Disco, Toby Emmerich, Andrew Haas, Jonathan McCoy.

Crew: Director: Zach Braff. Screenplay: Theodore Melfi. Camera (color, widescreen): Rodney Charters. Editor: Myron I Kerstein.

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

More Film

  • Samara Weaving

    'G.I. Joe' Spinoff 'Snake Eyes' Adds 'Ready or Not's' Samara Weaving

    Samara Weaving will join Henry Golding in the “G.I. Joe” spinoff, “Snake Eyes.” Haruka Abe, Ursula Corbero, Iko Uwais and Andrew Koji have also boarded the Paramount, Skydance and AllSpark movie. “The Captain” director Robert Schwentke is helming and Brian Goldner is producing. Evan Spiliotopoulos, who wrote “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Huntsman: Winter’s [...]

  • The Irishman

    'The Irishman' to Screen at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre

    Netflix’s “The Irishman,” directed by Martin Scorsese, will screen at American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood  for two weeks starting Nov. 1. The screenings, announced Monday, are part of the limited theatrical run for the 209-minute crime drama, which premiered at the New York Film Festival on Sept. 27. Netflix will begin streaming “The Irishman” on [...]

  • Critics' Choice Documentary Awards Nominations 2019

    'Biggest Little Farm' Nabs Seven Critics' Choice Documentary Awards Nominations

    “The Biggest Little Farm” leads nominees for the fourth annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, with seven bids, followed by “Apollo 11” and “They Shall Not Grow Old.” “One Child Nation” received five nominations. The winners will be presented their awards at a gala, hosted by Property Brothers’ Jonathan Scott, on Nov. 10 at BRIC in [...]

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

  • Abominable Animated Movie

    Vietnam Pulls DreamWorks' 'Abominable' Over Contested Territorial Claims

    Vietnam has banned DreamWorks Animation’s new co-produced feature “Abominable” from its cinemas due to a scene involving a map that depicts China’s contested territorial claims in the South China Sea. The move comes as U.S. entertainment firms such as the NBA, Disney and gaming firm Activision Blizzard are under intense fire from U.S. fans, activists [...]

  • The Captain

    China Box Office: 'The Captain' Flies to $340 Million After Two Weeks of Release

    Patriotic thriller “The Captain” held on to the top spot at the Chinese box office for the second weekend, again leading from propaganda omnibus “My People, My Country.” “The Captain,” also known as “The Chinese Pilot” earned $34.9 million according to consultancy Artisan Gateway, for a two-week cumulative of $343 million. The cumulative for “People,” [...]

  • CGV movie theatre Seoul South KoreaCGV

    Korean Law to Limit Film Releasing Monopolies

    The Korean government is to make it illegal to show a single film on more than 50% of screens nationwide. The move is intended to prevent “screen monopolies by blockbuster films” and to “address unfair competition practices in the film industry.” The Ministry of Culture announced on Monday that it will revise the existing Promotion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content