“Going in Style” is a blistering social commentary disguised as an old coot caper comedy. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin play factory workers who did all the right things only to have the system give them the middle finger in old age.
A remake from the 1979 George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg adventure “Going in Style,” the movie begins with Joe (Caine) confronting his condescending bank manager (John Pais). The older man’s mortgage has tripled and he will soon be evicted from his home. As they argue, outside the manager’s office armed masked men invade the bank, scooping handfuls of cash from the tellers. Joe is unharmed in the heist—one of the thieves tells him, “It is a culture’s duty to take care of the elderly.”—and later excitedly tells his family and friends Willie (Freeman) and Al (Arkin) about the robbery.
The afternoon’s excitement aside, Joe’s financial situation is still dire. His old company, now in the midst of a takeover, has frozen all pension cheques. He needs to come up with a way to get his hands on some cash. Ditto for Willie, who needs a new kidney and Al who can barely afford to feed himself.
When their favourite waitress gives them a free piece of pie with the truism, “Everybody deserves pie,” it dawns on Joe that she’s right. “We should be having our pie and eating it too,” he says, hatching a plan to steal back their pensions. “These banks practically destroyed this country and nothing ever happened to them,” he says. “If we get caught we get a bed, three meals a day and free healthcare.”
“Going in Style” then drops the social commentary and becomes a heist flick. Think “The Italian Job” with electric wheelchairs and you’ll get the idea.
Much of the charm of “Going in Style” comes from watching Caine, Freeman and Arkin glide—OK, it’s more like shuffle—through this material. There’s nothing particularly new here, we’ve seen loads of elderly men take back their lives on film in recent years, but subtext and actor goodwill elevate this slight story.
Caine, Freeman and Arkin are formidable actors but expertly portray the invisibility that can come with old age. As eighty-somethings they are unseen—banks take advantage of them, the police ignore them—until they take their future into their own hands. The story is implausible but by the time the heist happens you want the best for these grandpas, no matter how silly the story gets.
“Going in Style” is part knockabout comedy, part rage against the machine. Director Zach Braff adds in just enough sentimentality and slapstick to frame the film’s message of “having a pie of pie whenever the hell I want to!”