In Going In Style, a trio of A-list pensioners decide to rob a bank. But can the film get away with it?
There’s a moment in Zach Braff’s Going In Style where would-be bank robbers Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin are watching Dog Day Afternoon on TV. It’s armchair research for them, but for the audience, it’s a wake-up call – as it should be for Braff in a film that has a decent enough idea at its core, but just doesn’t make the most of it.
It’s a story that’s been used before. The original Going In Style was made in 1979, directed by the then 27-year-old Martin Brest and starring veterans Art Carney, George Burns and Lee Strasburg as the lifelong friends who decided to rob a bank. There’s also toe-to-toe parallels with the truly dreadful Golden Years, a British film from last year that had a group of pensioners staging a series of bank heists. It was also one of those films blatantly – and patronisingly – targeted at the so-called grey market.
So was Going In Style worth re-making? In the cold light of day, probably not: it was a slight idea then and it is now. But there are things going for it. The story this time round is that Joe (Caine) is facing foreclosure on his home, where he lives with his daughter and granddaughter. Then the company where he met lifelong friends Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin) closes down and their pension fund is frozen. But Joe has an epiphany when the local bank is robbed. And he decides it’s the way for the three of them to have the lives they’ve worked for and deserve.
The film’s biggest asset is its three stars, all of whom play to their strengths: Caine and his deadpan style, the more laid-back Freeman and Arkin doing his usual grumpy old man schtick, but without the bad language that won him an Oscar. It’s their charm that draws you into the film and keeps you going. True, they could all do this in their sleep, but at least they have the good grace not to look like they’re taking the money and running. They’re also joined by Back To The Future favourite Christopher Lloyd as one of the members of their lodge, re-creating Jim Ignatowski from 70s TV favourite, Taxi, but as a geriatric – all goggle eyes and corkscrew hair.
He provides most of the laughs and there are a few others, including a genuinely funny scene involving mobility scooter – funnier than it sounds! – and running gags such as the waitress at the diner who’s always on the look-out, so to speak. But most of them only raise a smile and, at best, a giggle.
Thankfully, Going In Style manages to avoid patronising its characters and the audience, which means it makes a pleasant, undemanding hour and a half. But it doesn’t do much more than that and, given its cast, does even less to make the most of them.