The original Going in Style, directed by Martin Brest (Midnight Run) in 1979, starred George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg as three old-timers who decide to shake up their mundane lives a little by holding up their local bank–they don’t need to, they just want to get a bit of the ol’ spark back.
Almost four decades later, we get a remake with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, and it’s a clear sign of the times that their heist is fueled by their losing their pensions; their former employer has sold out to a big conglomerate and is moving all the operations overseas.
As Joe (Caine) confronts his mortgage lender in his Brooklyn bank one afternoon, a trio of bandits take the place for more than a million bucks. Inspired, and also facing foreclosure in a month, Joe tells his buddies Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin), “I think I may rob a bank.” Willie signs on without reservation but Albert takes a bit more encouragement, especially after Joe and Willie’s dress rehearsal at the local market fails miserably (though not without ample hilarity).
Eventually the three men come together and decide to take the plunge, and for some advice they meet up with local “bad seed” Jesus (John Ortiz), who they’re introduced to by Joe’s deadbeat son-in-law. With that, the AARP version of Ocean’s Eleven is underway, as Joe, Willie, and Albert case the bank, learn how to hotwire a getaway car, and try to figure out how to make their seventy-year-old legs shuffle in and out of the heist in under three minutes.
Caine, Freeman, and Arkin (Oscar winners, all) do some very nice work with the light-hearted story, turning Going in Style into a perfectly watchable bit of fun. Screenwriter Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures) does a good job of straying from the source material, and just when you think the film is headed down an all-too-predictable path, it surprises pleasantly. There’s just enough gravitas to keep things from feeling too frothy, and the humor, thankfully, avoids all the tired, old-folks jokes we’ve heard in similar movies before.
Zach Braff, directing only his third feature, plays things very much by the book, offering very little of the quirk and heart we saw in his 2004 debut Garden State, but Going in Style still works as a nice diversion. It’s also a showcase of some of the best acting talent we’ve ever known. These guys still have it.