Director: Zach Braff
Writers: Theodore Melfi (screenplay), Edward Cannon (based on the 1979 story by)
Stars: Joey King, Morgan Freeman, Ann-Margret, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin
Reboots and remakes have long been the flavour of the month, whether through a lack originality and/or a desire to retell compelling or just plain humorous stories. Going in Style definitely falls under the latter. It’s a whimsical, geriatric, heist movie remake of the 1979 original, starring Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin as disenfranchised pensioners fighting back against the establishment.
Hidden Figures director Ted Melfi lends his writing talents to the screenplay and although it’s not the most fantastic or riveting film you’ll ever watch, it definitely has its good moments and a serious thematic message underneath. Most notably, about the ruthlessness of today’s financial establishment and the complete disdain they have for ordinary, working class people. Which is precisely where our trio of pension age protagonist find themselves. Joe (Caine) is facing foreclosure on his home after his New York bank triple the mortgage repayments he’s lumbered with using a teaser rate loophole and with mere weeks to rescue situation, he finds himself with little or no options. So when his bank is robbed during a meeting with his smarmy, cowardly bank advisor Chuck (Josh Pais), it plants the seed in his mind.
A short while later, this fanciful idea of a heist is given further impetus when Joe and his two buddies, Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin) discover that their ex-steel industry employer is moving its operations abroad and dissolving their pensions, leaving them in a perilous position, potentially relying on the state for handouts. Despite their new found hardship, Willie is fairly dubious of the idea and Albert (the cynical realist of the three) isn’t even entertaining it. Which to be fair, following an utterly disastrous robbery attempt on a supermarket is the logical conclusion anyone would take. Joe, remaining unflustered and determined however and viewing the heist as his only chance of keeping his home, does his best to coerce the two into it.
Despite a reasonably successful attempt from Melfi at imbuing the film with an underlying satirical attack on greedy banks (it wasn’t anywhere near as good as Hell and High Water), it’s still an escapist comedy at heart with a main story arc, that quite frankly, is not to be taken too seriously. And so when the three decide to seek the assistance of a professional criminal through Joe’s weed smoking (collecting?), son-in-law, Murphy (Peter Serafinowicz), you don’t blink an eyelid. They trio are regularly viewed upon with humorous contempt by the younger peers they encounter throughout and, as is usually the case in today’s society, often ignored completely, which aids them in slipping under the radar as the plans for their clever heist come together.
Despite some obvious weak points in the film. I.e. The forced injection of predictable, slapstick humour at certain points or some of the less than believable aspects of the story. There’s one facet which carries this film out of the banal and unremarkable, and that’s the palpable chemistry between the leading three and performances of the strong supporting cast. Arkin is arguably the standout of the three, his character Albert developing from a grumpy, sax player who Joe describes as “waiting 20 years to die” into someone with a blooming love interest and a renewed purpose in life. Meanwhile, Caine and Freeman are fantastic, delivering pitch perfect performances as the disenfranchised pensioners come buddies. Their interactions together are often funny and heartwarming. Christopher Lloyd does well in his cameo as the eccentric Milton, whilst both Ann-Margret and Matt Dillon also put in solid showings, the former in particular as Annie.
I made reference to Hell and High Water earlier and there’s definitely many parallels with that fantastic film here. Both feature the threat of foreclosure; the robbing of a bank/s for morally good reasons, that leave the viewer rooting for the robbers; strong satirical themes aimed firmly at the financial establishment and both choose to heavily focus on post-recession society and the effects on the most vulnerable within. The former is a far superior film, of course, light years ahead of the latter, but they’re in very different genres and it’s unfair to compare beyond the superficial similarities. This is not a bad little film at all though. I looked forward to watching it purely down to the cast alone and I wasn’t disappointed. I particularly loved how it broke down the heist in the final twenty minutes or so. As a fan of the tv show Hustle, which liked to explain the different heists in the same way within each episode, this definitely had a similar feel.
Ultimately, it’s not the greatest film in the world, but it’s an entertaining, light hearted, popcorn flick with excellent performances from some acting legends and is absolutely deserving of a viewing. Whether that be at the cinema or a few months down the line in the house.