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Going in Style
Help the aged... or they might just help themselves, armed with handguns and withering put-downs. So sayeth Going In Style, director Zach Braff's warm-hearted remake of the 1979 comedy starring George Burns, Art Burney and Lee Strasberg. The Academy Award-winning trio of Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin gel beautifully in the new version, trading quips with twinkles in their eyes courtesy of scriptwriter Theodore Melfi, who was Oscar nominated for the splendid Hidden Figures. His ear for snappy dialogue provides the leads with some delicious verbal grenades to toss at each other, and one of the chief pleasures of Braff's film is watching these accomplished performers - average miles on the clock: 82 - riff and ricochet off each other with effortless grace. "It always works out in the end," chirrups Caine optimistically. "Then you die," counters Arkin. Admittedly, some aspects of the plot wheeze and puff like the octogenarian characters as they train for the physical rigours of robbing a bank, and the glaze of syrupy sentimentality is laid on thick. But for all its blemishes and cheerful predictability, Going In Style is a guilty pleasure that pickpockets generous laughs. Joe (Caine), Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin) are lifelong friends, who all worked for the same steel company and are now mellowing in retirement. Willie and Albert are housemates and live across the street from Joe, his daughter Rachel (Maria Dizzia) and spunky granddaughter Brooklyn (Joey King). During a meeting between Joe and his unsympathetic bank manager (Josh Pais), three masked men with guns walk into the branch and confidently steal 1.6 million US dollars. Soon after, their old employer announces it is freezing company pensions. Joe is apoplectic - without the money, he will lose his home - and decides to rob the Williamsburg Savings Bank, which is managing the liquidation of the pension fund. "We got experience, smarts," grins Joe. "Arthritis, gout, shingles..." adds Willie. The friends eventually agree to steal the money they are owed and donate additional funds from the heist to charity. A dry run at a local supermarket ends in humiliation and Joe realises they will need help from a criminal lowlife (John Ortiz) to pull off their ludicrous scheme. Going In Style is a resolutely old-fashioned yet charming comedy of men behaving badly in direct response to corporate greed. So often, these kind of irascible, straight-talking characters are relegated to the periphery, or used cheaply as a blunt force plot device, whose death in the second act facilitates tearful reconciliation. Braff's picture cherishes them, introducing a delightful romantic subplot for Albert with a flirty supermarket worker (Ann-Margret), and conflict between Joe and his wastrel former son-in-law (Peter Serafinowicz). By the time the end credits roll, Joe, Willie and Albert have stolen our hearts too.