Going In Style first published by RealCrime Magazine
“I don’t want to watch the ending.”
“Yeah, that didn’t work out so well.”
The speakers are Joe (Michael Caine) and Willie (Morgan Freeman), watching Dog Day Afternoon (1976) on television. Like the characters on the screen before them, they too are planning to stick up a New York bank, with help from their friend and fellow retiree Albert (Alan Arkin). Not just any bank, either, but the one which is expediting the foreclosure of the home that Joe shares with his beloved granddaughter (Joey King) and divorced daughter – and which has negotiated away all three men’s hard-earned pensions in a global business merger.
These three would-be partners in crime have good reason to be concerned about how the ending might turn out. After all, even though Martin Brest’s original Going In Style (1979) may formally have presented itself as a comedy, in fact its exploration of ageing and mortality was decidedly bleak and downbeat, and ended with two of its trio dead and the last spending the rest of his life in jail. Zach Garden State Braff’s reimagining, however, written by Theodore Hidden Figures Melfi, definitely looks away from the ravages of the autumn years, preferring to see the glass half full. Times have changed. The $30,000 stolen in the original has been inflated to well over a million, and the robbery itself, in Brest’s film a simple affair taking up less than the plot’s first third, is the very centrepiece of Braff’s film, and comes with a slick and sexy montage of preparation scenes, retro split screens and even a shoot-out (of sorts). Now, of course, in the wake of the Credit Crunch, bankers are a whole lot less popular than they were in the late Seventies, ensuring that this Rat Pack’s heist comes with much saccharine sympathy and little moral nuance. Even a little girl caught up in the armed robbery becomes just another trauma-free opportunity for heart-warming, life-affirming cutesiness. It’s a fun-loving comedy caper in which three grumpy old men get to live a little while sticking it to the Man.
In other words, Going In Style is pure wish-fulfilment fantasy, where real-world consequences are negligible, where thieves are just lovable old rogues, and where any notion of the inevitable unhappy ending awaiting our twilight anti-heroes is pushed off into the long grass, so as not to offend the sensitivities of any viewer who may not want to watch it. Worst of all, despite all the charms of the veteran cast (including Ann-Margret as Albert’s late-in-life love interest), very little here is particularly funny, let alone plausible.
© Anton Bitel