Watch Steve's supplemental video review at the bottom of the article
Going in Style is a remake of a 1979 Martin Brest film of the same name, but that detail has little importance to modern audiences today. Brest would go on to direct some of the finest action-comedies, some of which probably among your list of favorites, likeBeverly Hills Cop and Midnight Run, but hasn't made a film since 2003. If something else besides inspiring some modest laughs on a bright spring day, I'd like to think this remake of Going in Style will motivate people not only to seek out the original, but also dive into the grossly underrated filmography of Martin Brest.
Braff's remake of the comedy that starred comic greats George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg takes on more of a social commentary angle than the original. It gives the three geezers who carry out a poor man's bank-heist a motivation - to take back the pension money their factory stole from them. In the original film, the geezers simply wanted to disrupt the nauseating routine of their lives that involved sitting on park benches, feeding ducks, and doing crossword puzzles. Here, "the man" substitutes age as the unruly antagonist.
What better way to modernize such a goofy premise than to replace Burns, Carney, and Strasberg with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, arguably their contemporary clones? This time around, the film opens with Joe (Caine) witnessing a group of masked men storming into his bank heralding machine guns and demanding cash in a prompt manner. Joe, who is in the process of getting a runaround from a bank employee about his soon-to-be foreclosed home and tripling mortgage payments, is inspired not only by the efficiency of the robbers but by the idea of taking back what is rightfully his - the pension for which he worked thirty long years.
Going in Style
Joey King, Morgan Freeman, Ann-Margret
7 April 2017
Steve's Grade: B
His pals Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin) are shocked at such a gutsy idea, but soon come around when they realize that the world they live in has gotten colder and crueler. The realization of being exploited by an unforgiving system to no fault of their own dawns on them to the point where they carry out their plan of purchasing Rat Pack masks and inquiring the help of a career criminal named Jesus (John Ortiz) to assist them in improving their speed and their plan of action.
Braff's Going in Style edges Brest's original in being a more revealing film about process and urgency. The original showed the robbery with the simplicity only the 70s could offer, where three geriatrics with Groucho Marx masks could walk in, fire one warning shot, and collect money from tellers in an assembly line fashion. This film shows the struggles and complexities 2017 technology and investigation brings, and the way screenwriter Theodore Melfi (director ofHidden Figures and St. Vincent) illustrates every detail of the alibi the men use on the lead investigator of the robbery (Matt Dillon) is crafty and satisfying.
The film also takes into account Brest's care and attention to establishing clear themes of friendship and teamwork against forces larger than the characters, and Braff does a great job at maintaining those ideas. The original film's grimmer, more realized writing, however, solidified these themes more. Where Brest dared attack the inevitability the characters in his story faced, Braff and Melfi prefer to spend that time having the geezers practice robbing a small grocery store and engaging in a "chase" with security on a motorized cart.
Going in Style, like Last Vegas and Stand Up Guys, is good for a laugh and a competent film for a target demographic that can occasionally feel alienated when looking at the films playing in the local multiplex (especially after what a breakneck month of blockbusters March hit us with). The film's loyalty to the original work is commendable, even moreso when considering its relative obscurity has no public obligation to be, and its creative liberties and attempts at modernizing elements mostly work to its favor. Furthermore, one has to be an absolute cynic not to take such pride in spending ninety minutes with three proven greats who have shown that old age isn't synonymous with slumming it in future film projects.