A combination of A-list stars — even three Oscar winners — is no guarantee a film will accomplish all it should. Frankly, that was my fear before seeing what is being called a “re-imagining” of director Martin Brest’s very funny 1979 oldster bank robbery film “Going in Style” that starred Art Carney, George Burns and Lee Strasberg. In this new movie, the felonious senior citizens are portrayed by Academy Award recipients Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin and Michael Caine.
The good news: This talented group has gives us another delightful, comedic romp — nicely updated to match 2017 economic challenges and contemporary sensibilities when it comes to how we see older Americans.
The set up is fairly straightforward. Freeman, Arkin and Caine are lifelong Brooklyn pals who retired after four decades of working for the same steel company. Suddenly, they learn the owners of their former employer have sold the firm to a Vietnamese concern — and thanks to some corporate finagling have canceled the trio’s retirement pensions that were supposed to last their lifetimes. All three men already have financial challenges, and losing their pensions will totally throw them over the edge. Freeman’s Willie and Arkin’s Albert are roommates — living across the street from Caine’s Joe, who is a key supporter to his single-mom daughter and his beloved granddaughter, played by Joey King.
When Joe witnesses an expertly executed armed robbery at his local bank branch, the spark of an idea hits him: to convince his two buddies to stage their own heist — but to steal only the amount they are owed on their canceled pensions.
Soon we’re off on a truly hilarious ride with a number of twists and turns that will keep you smiling from start to the somewhat surprising finish. An added plus is Ann-Margret, who co-stars as a neighborhood grocery clerk who long has lusted after widower Albert. The actress proves without doubt that sexiness can come at any age and at any moment — and her scenes with Arkin are among the funniest in the film.
But the best part of all this is to witness the three veteran pros — Caine, Arkin and Freeman — interact and throw around some well-scripted zingers from writer Theodore Melfi (“St. Vincent,” “Hidden Figures”) that drive the action perfectly.
Director Zach Braff — who, of course, first found fame as an actor on the hospital TV comedy series “Scrubs — continues to build a solid reputation as a filmmaker. He previously proved it with his directorial debut with “Garden State,” built upon it with “Wish I Was Here,” and now adds another notch in his belt of good films.
While this charming movie will be targeted to senior audiences, I hope younger generations check it out — as the humor and underlying messages are truly universal.
New Line Cinema presents a film directed by Zach Braff and written by Theodore Melfi. Rated PG-13 (for drug content, language and some suggestive material. Running time: 96 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.