Going in Style is the rare remake that is better than the original.
That’s because it creates a plausible (if not entirely believable) set of circumstances in which three octogenarians are forced to consider the unlikely remedy of robbing a bank – and are smart enough to do it.
Joe Harding (Michael Caine) is visiting his bank to sort out some financial issues when three men in masks rob it – in meticulously timed style. When he offers his wallet to one of the robbers, he’s told they don’t want his money – ‘a culture is required to support its elderly’ he is told.
Joe is interviewed as a witness and provides a key piece of evidence before getting to go home. The next morning, over breakfast with his best friends – the abrasive Al (Alan Arkin) and laid back Willie (Morgan Freeman) – he mentions thinking about holding up the back as a last resort.
The next day, the three learn that their pension fund is being dissolved – the company they worked for for over thirty years is merging with a company whose operations are based outside the U.S. and since they won’t have any operations in the U.S., they’re dissolving the pension fund. It’s just business.
This leaves Joe in a bigger pickle than Al or Willie (he thinks) because his daughter, Rachel (Maria Dizzia, Orange Is The New Black, 13 Reasons Why), and granddaughter, Brooklyn (Joey King) have been staying with him since Rachel’s divorce.
When the pension fund announcement is followed by Joe’s receiving a Default notice in regard to his mortgage, the die is cast. It helps that the bank that’s taking care of the pension fund dissolution is his bank…
Al decides to join the heist because he’s gotten himself involved with supermarket cashier Annie (Ann-Margaret) and would kinda like to be able to take home – but since he’s roommates with Willie…
Plus, of course, Willie has a secret he’s never shared with anyone – even his best friends.
Once they’ve decide to pull the robbery, they realise that they need help (a dry run in a Value Town grocery goes so badly…), so they get a reference from Brooklyn’s deadbeat dad, Murphy (Peter Serafinowicz, amazon’s Tick) – who runs a medical marijuana store.
He leads them to Jesus (John Ortiz), who schools them in how to pull off a perfect robbery.
Written by Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent, Hidden figures) and directed by Zach Braff (Garden State, Wish I Was Here), Going In Style does a few things the original did not – it brings real life situations to the characters’ motivations; it has a supporting cast that can match its three stars (who are easily a match for the original film’s stars, talent-wise), and it makes both the characters and their plight – as well as their preparation and execution of the robbery – work on emotional and intellectual levels.
The trio’s plans are thorough and delightfully appropriate; the FBI agent (Matt Dillon) is exactly cocky enough (‘I’ll find you. It’s what we do!’) that we want to see him fail, and the guys are in situations we can relate to, so we want to see them succeed.
Braff moves things along at a pace that feels appropriate for three octogenarians/near octogenarians – not too fast (though it’s pretty clear why Al’s the getaway driver). The early part of the film, while we’re getting to know the guys – and understand their circumstances – is developed at a slower pace that allows proper setting up of key moments – and gives the audience time to respond to both the humor and the pathos.
Once rehearsals start, the pace picks up – but never to the level of most robbery/heist films; these guys are not kids. At their fastest, they’re just a hare quicker than turtles.
With the film keying on Joe, Will and Al, it’s noticeable that, generally speaking, the supporting cast doesn’t have a lot to do – Joe’s daughter, Rachel, gives Dizzia nothing to work with, for example), but King gets to build her character’s relationship with her grandfather pretty nicely and Al’s growing relationship with Annie is delightful (as the most genuine New Yorker of the three, he’s bewildered when Annie seems to like him in spite/because of it).
The one aspect of Going In Style that doesn’t quite work, is Willie’s health problem. It seems to be added solely to Willie a quirk that will earn him extra sympathy – then undercuts that sympathy with his being an ass and not telling Joe or Al.
On the whole, though, Going In Style is more plausible, more relatable and more entertaining than the original.
Final Grade: B+