Want a hard boiled bank robbery thriller? This day at the old folks’ home isn’t that, but it gets by on its charm
It’s not easy to make a cuddly pic about bank robbers, but “Going in Style” is about as heartwarming a heist movie as you’re likely to find.
It’s one more entry in the Old Guys Doing Stuff genre; previous entries include “Last Vegas” (Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Robert De Niro and Morgan Freeman head to Vegas), “Space Cowboys” (Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner head to outer space) or “Wild Hogs” (Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, John Travolta and William H. Macy head out on the high road). Think of it as “Cocoon” with a getaway vehicle.
It stars a trio of Oscar winners — Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin — as three old codgers fed up with getting screwed over by the system who decide to take back their piece of the pie by knocking over a bank.
“Heat” it ain’t. “Going in Style” — a remake of the 1979 original which starred George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg — treats bank robbery with the severity of stealing a few grapes from the produce section of the grocery store. It’s basically a cartoon; Matt Dillon plays a FBI agent so bumbling he might as well have a dunce cap on his head. The “Oceans” movies are moralistic dramas in comparison.
But it’s harmless fun, though it’s not quite as nimble or clever as it thinks it is. Director Zach Braff stages the big robbery sequence as a lark, and neither the movie nor the characters seem to grasp the weight of their actions. Braff then lays out the pieces of how everything came together like a puzzle in reverse, though the pacing and slow reveal bury what should be a bigger payoff. The characters take a big gamble, though Braff’s film isn’t brave enough to take any risks.
Caine plays Joe, a grandfather in New York who is facing foreclosure on his home because he got tied into a ripoff mortgage by a slippery banker. He hangs out with buds Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin) at a local diner, where they pinch their pennies and complain about the harsh economic realities of their golden years. When their pensions are cut, and Willie learns he needs a new kidney that his dodgy insurance won’t cover, they decide to become thieves. At worst, they figure, they’ll get tossed in the slammer where the health care is better and room and board are free.
The story is plenty timely, and its economic commentary —– especially as it relates to the elderly — stings. Yes, you can work your whole life and be left with nothing at the end. The leap to bank robbery is a bit flighty, as is the argument the characters are owed the spoils of a bank takedown. But again, we’re dealing with “Scooby Doo” logic, so you don’t get too caught up in the details.
“Going in Style’s” best moments come from the actors. There’s a scene were Caine, Freeman and Arkin — combined age: 246 — are watching “The Bachelor,” and their commentary is precious. There are good laughs and nice moments to be mined just from the three of them just hanging around; they don’t have to rob banks, they could open up an ice cream shoppe, and they’d have enough chemistry between them to sell the material.
But “Going in Style” isn’t setting out to do much more than to steal a smile, and in that regard, it succeeds. There are weightier movies with more moral complexity, but this is just a hug from grandpa. And who couldn’t use more of those?
Rated PG-13: for drug content, language and some suggestive material