Going in Style – The Over the Hill Gang strikes back!
by Lew Ritter
CAUTION: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
GOING IN STYLE is a remake of the 1979 heist film that starred comedy legends George Burns and Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, acting coach extraordinaire as a trio of retired gentlemen who plan a bank robbery. In the 2017 version, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin and Morgan Freeman take over the roles of the three long- time friends.
Set in the 1960s, GOING IN STYLE tells the tale of three men who, afraid of being screwed out of their pensions for, well, the usual reasons in this day and age, decide to rob the local bank that handles their pension accounts. The seniors plan the heist with the precision of the D-Day invasion and then off they go, off to get justice by – oh, you guessed it – getting even.
During the bank robbery, a little girl sees Morgan Freeman’s face by peering under his mask. When she’s called to identify the robbers in a lineup, she nevertheless refuses to identify him as one of the bank robbers.
After completing the heist, the protagonists honor their promise to take care of their friends. They leave a large stack of bills for Mitzi, the put-upon waitress, and the members of the “Knights of Hudson” lodge discover a thick layer of dollar bills hidden underneath a birthday cake at a lodge celebration.
Matt Dillon plays a plodding police detective who believes he is the reincarnation of TV’s Lt. Columbo and is confident that he is one step ahead of the seniors…until the end, when he discovers that he has been outplayed all the way around.
In addition to the leads, also in the cast is the still radiant Ann Margaret as an employee of the local supermarket who has a crush on Arkin. John Ortiz and Kenan Thompson from SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE do fine jobs as well.
The movie never denies the aging heroes their dignity by indulging in cheap senior jokes. Arkin’s character is still an enthusiastic member of a jazz band, and Arkin and Ann-Margret have a delightful romance as old age lovebirds. Freeman is a sophisticated computer geek who skypes with his grandkids.
Zack Braff, (SCRUBS) brings an exuberant energy to the director’s chair. The screenplay was written by Theodore Melfi, who also co- wrote the screenplay for this year’s surprise hit HIDDEN FIGURES and last year’s sentimental hit ST. VINCENT starring Bill Murray.
The movie descends into slapstick for the scene in which the seniors perform a dry run of the robbery, stuffing meats and fruit from the local supermarket down their pants and racing away from the scene of the crime on a mobile shopping scooter chased on foot by the store’s overweight security guard.
Although the heroes do escape being portrayed as old-age cliches, Christopher Lloyd, who has made a career out of playing wild-eyed eccentrics like BACK TO THE FUTURE’s Doc Brown and Reverend Jim in the classic TV comedy series TAXI seems to have been hired just to pick up the slack. In GOING IN STYLE, does what is now a tiresome shtick as an over the top senile stereotype.
GOING IN STYLE is a feel-good entertainment that runs on the charm of its three main actors. It is entertainment with a heart that lets you sympathize with the trio, as they developed their plot. It seems geared to please the Baby Boomers who grew up watching each of the stars in their many film roles, producing the same thrill the World War Two generation felt watching Burns and Art Carney in what turned out to be their last film roles.
Overall, this is a diverting evening featuring an all- star cast, a pleasant movie that for me goes a long way toward making up for all the over-produced, over-long, over-promoted superhero movies that Hollywood has been inflicting on the audience in recent years.
Lew Ritter is a teacher, freelance writer, and TVWriter™ Contributing Writer. Learn more about him here.