The last time I saw Michael Caine in a movie where he plays a character who steals to “make things right” it was it was with Demi Moore in a 2007 film called Flawless. I was bored on a flight back home and picked it without knowing anything about the movie. It was a pleasant surprise. I don’t believe it opened widely in theatres in the US. Too bad. There was a moral to the story that challenged my ethics, and I have thought about it more than once since seeing it.
Going in Style is a remake of a 1979 ‘caper film’ with the old guard of the time; George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg playing three men who share a small apartment in Queens, New York. The roommates live meagrely off social security checks, a reality that limits their ability to veer very far from routine. They decide to break the monotony by robbing a bank and going to Vegas. Hilarity ensues etc etc….
This 2017 version has the current veterans of the screen holding us hostage with subtle mastery. I usually shy away from a film like this. Too predictable. But I got an opportunity to see an advanced screening and thought, well, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are gold on the screen in Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy, so I gave it a chance. I must admit I was lukewarm on Alan Arkin. His work does not stand out to me, but that wasn’t a deal breaker. It’s the ensemble that makes or breaks a story. This team saved a format that could have been forgettable if not for their confident screen presence.
This time the three Oscar winners play friends who are not all roommates, but worked for decades at a steel plant. The corporate decision to relocate operations threatens the steady pension that is their only source of income in a world with expenses only going up.
Their friendship and dialogue is believable. Rather than play up the ‘old curmudgeon’ one horse trick, the script crafts tender, funny, caring relationships. They know they are old. Speak openly about how much time they have left, and take a serious look at options on how to spend their remaining years. Circumstances lead to a bold decision to go for it and rob a bank. Again…the reason why challenged my ethics. However, smart character development and scenes showing thoughtful, humorous interactions with one another as family by choice who value the bond they have, made me want to drive the getaway car.
Along the way, we meet a love interest, played by Ann Margret. It was refreshing to see her on screen again. The 1979 caper flick has matured into a modern heist. It unfolds with more than one unexpected twist. And a very satisfying ending.
With the emphasis on bigger, louder, CGI porn with eye popping 3D it was a pleasure to enjoy a sweet story. I liked this movie. There was action, tension, and I laughed out loud several times. I felt happy leaving the theatre. I haven’t been able to say that for a long time. Take a break from zombies, dreary dystopian futures, over muscled kick ass sequels and gore. Take your family. Grab a friend. No….grab two. And go in smile to see a movie that will entertain you with the art of good storytelling.