Remaking ‘Going in Style’ was a great idea that went horribly wrong

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength” – Betty Friedan

“Wake up, Al. The cops just called us a bunch of amateurs. I suppose we gotta’ knock off a bank every other week in order to get some respect from those jerks.” – George Burns as “Joe” in the original 1979 film Going in Style.

There is no question that Hollywood loves making heist movies.  They love making and remaking them.  Since 1999 they’ve remade Ocean’s Eleven, The Italian Job, The Thomas Crown Affair and Fun With Dick and JaneI mention the last one because when I reviewed it in 2005 I said that while the remake was probably worth seeing, people would probably do better by renting the original.  Sadly that statement is even more accurate in the 2017 reimagining of 1979’s brilliant Going in Style.

Alan Arkin, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, Academy Award winners one and all star as three retirees who toiled in a steel factory for decades.   “Al (Arkin) supplements his pension giving sax lessons to untalented youngsters while his neighbor “Annie” (Ann-Margaret) is warm for his form.  “Joe” (Caine has allowed his daughter “Rachel” (Maria Dizzia – Margin Call) and his granddaughter “Brooklyn” (Joey King – Independence Day: Resurgence) to move into his house.  But when he visits the bank to find out why his pension checks have stopped, the bank is robbed by three men.  Their robbery is a dazzling display of precious planning and excellent execution.  They are in and out in two minutes and get away with more than $1 million.  Joe becomes a witness when he shares a moment with one of the robbers and is questioned by FBI Special Agent Hamer (Matt Dillon – Armored).  “Willie” (Freeman) has not told either Al (his roommate) or Joe that he is in end-stage renal failure and doesn’t have long to live without a kidney transplant.

Michael Caine and Joey King in ‘Going in Style’

After the robbery the trio attend a meeting about the stopping of their pension payments.  There they learn their financial futures are ruined because their former employer was taken over by a foreign corporation that has decided to cease operating in the U.S.  As a result the fund that pays their pensions has been frozen and its assets will be liquidated to pay off the company’s creditors.  This gives Joe the idea that if those three robbers could rob his bank, so can he and his friends.  Some elaborate planning and scheming transpires, where they are helped by a “low-life” friend of Rachel’s ex-husband named “Jesus” (John Ortiz – Silver Linings Playbook).

The presence of the underhanded corporate tactics of the former employer and the bank are intended to provide a reason for the robbery, something this reimagining changed from the original.  A change for the worse.  Growing old in a society that praises and prizes youth is tough enough.  The trio of lead actors, aided by a set of stellar supporting players do their best but this move delivers neither style, drama or laughs in sufficient measure.  Joey King is great in a role that was written for her.  Ann-Margaret still oozes sensuality.  The alibis created by Al, Joe and Willie are interesting and well-photographed and Christopher Lloyd is fun as an elderly man who isn’t quite “all there.”  It just isn’t enough.

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