Going in Style

GOING IN STYLE. Starring: Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin. Directed by Zach Braff. Rated M (Coarse language). 96 min.

This American comedy is a remake of the 1979 classic George Burns movie, of the same name, which tells the story of three people on the dole deciding to organise a bank robbery. The film is set in New York City, and is factually reminiscent of a well publicised heist by seven men, including a 74 and 76 year old, who were arrested for stealing a vault full of jewellery in Hatton Garden, London, in May, 2015.

In this movie, as in the original 1979 film, the three men live on social security and are down-and-out. In their decision to rob a bank, they take matters into their own hands with a little criminal help, and the problems they meet provide the chief comic moments of the film.

The main stars are Hollywood icons with a history of classic performances - Willie (Morgan Freeman), Joe (Michael Caine), and Albert (Alan Arkin). All three are Oscar winners from the past, and have earned their reputations as screen legends.

The original film had men robbing a bank because they were bored. In this film, modern causes are motivating their risky decision-making. Each of the men in this movie is fed up with corporate greed, and wants to fight back against the system. All of them have lost their pensions, and none of them has the faintest idea of how to pull the heist off, but they are certain that they want to steal from the bank they think has robbed them. Their pensions have been absorbed by corporate profiteering, and they can no longer pay their bills, or support their families. Significantly, the bank they are targeting is the one that has fraudulently been a party to their retirement monies being frozen. The firm that employed them has joined forces with the same bank in order to expand its business operations overseas.

There is a heavy whiff of nostalgia about the film as the elderly men go about their ill-conceived plan, fumbling almost the entire way, but the movie offers something more. It explores tellingly the frustrations of growing old, and provides a social commentary on modern times with the help of sharply observant scripting. The themes it takes up are variable, but pertinent. They include ageing with grace, social inequality, financial greed, the importance of family, and the solace that comes from lasting friendships. The trio get excellent support from a range of characters, each reflecting pressing problems of their own, and emphasising contemporary social relevance.

Resigned to growing old, but anticipating the spirit of modern times, the three men decide on "pay-back" with a bit of excitement to provide them with a "hell of a time". They are sick of playing victims, and want social justice for themselves, and they are willing to consult with criminals to get it. For obvious reasons, the film's chief message is not for copying, or modelling, but the film offers a sobering message that warns financial institutions to keep the trust of the people who use them.

This is a film with some wonderful comic moments, and there are some great one-liners. It carries good lessons about corporate insensitivity, and it provides a humourous escape from the tensions of what parts of the financial world seem to have become.

Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine are experienced professional actors on stage and on the screen. Each has excellent dramatic timing, and knows how to milk a situation for its comic potential, while working as part of a smoothly operating ensemble. This light comedy has style, grace and warmth, and creates some tender moments in a gently entertaining way.

Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting

Roadshow Films

Released April 20th., 2017


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