"You 5-O?" asks the seasoned criminal who's been enlisted to help three seniors with the unlikely task of robbing a bank in Zach Braff's new film, Going in Style. "We're almost 8-O," one of them cannily replies, mere moments before the old codger takes a hit off a joint.
It's a prime example of the kind of corny shtick regularly on display in this remake of a 1979 comedy, the latest entry in the increasingly tired how-old fellas-get-their-groove-back genre. It's far too content to coast on the easy charm of its three leads, but rarely ever elicits anything more than a smile.
Like some kind of octogenarian Avengers, Going in Style assembles actors who, separately, have appeared in this brand of comedy before. Morgan Freeman (The Bucket List, Last Vegas) plays Willie, who has failing kidneys and laments how little he gets to see his granddaughter, while Alan Arkin (Stand Up Guys) is Willie's roommate Albert, who's somewhat reluctantly romancing a woman (Ann-Margret) that works at the grocery store. The newcomer to the genre is the legendary Michael Caine, whose character Joe concocts the idea of a heist in the first place.
Joe has just been served a notice of foreclosure on the house he shares with his daughter and granddaughter, and has taken it to his bank in hopes of getting some answers when he's interrupted by three masked men robbing it.
Joe's gears start to turn: He, Willie and Albert have just had their pensions cut off due to their old employers shutting down American operations, and are forced to stare down a sad existence in which they can't even afford to have a piece of pie at their local diner. Joe proposes the ludicrous idea of robbing the bank that's withholding the money they're rightfully owed — an idea that starts to sounds less and less ludicrous the more they think about it.
The film drags its heels getting to the robbery, with the trio attempting a bit of a dry run at the grocery store that ends badly when a large pyramid of Spam gets knocked over. There's also the requisite montage of the group learning the ropes from the seasoned criminal from the first line of this review, and getting themselves in proper shape to pull off the job. But luckily, the heist isn't saved for the climax and the film has some fun in doubling back afterwards to show how they pulled things off while maintaining a solid alibi, as an FBI agent (Matt Dillon) doggedly attempts to piece everything together.
Some of the details are telegraphed so blatantly that the ensuing twists can't help but be predictable, and it's not surprising given the fantastical premise to find that certain actions strain believability. It'd be all too easy to blame director/critical punching bag Zach Braff for any and all of these offenses, but he does a competent if unspectacular job of trying to bring a little style to the proceedings. If anything, it's Ted Melfi's script that deserves more of the blame, serving up bland jokes where the punch line too frequently hinges on the fact that these guys are old.
The one thing for certain is that Caine, Freeman and Arkin can hardly be faulted for their efforts; they make their rapport seem both genuine and effortless throughout. We'd perhaps rather see these great actors taking on some weightier roles, but at their age, they're certainly entitled to have a little fun once in a while. If only we could share in their enjoyment here. (Warner)