[Screen It]

(2017) (Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman) (PG-13)

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Comedy: With their pensions being dissolved and with one of their homes being foreclosed on, three friends and former co-workers plot to rob the bank involved with all of that.
Joe Harding (MICHAEL CAINE), Willie Davis (MORGAN FREEMAN) and Albert Garner (ALAN ARKIN) are longtime friends who are all retired from Semtech Steel and live in Brooklyn. There, they frequent the same diner every day and hope they don't ever become partially senile like their lodge-mate acquaintance, Milton Kupchak (CHRISTOPHER LLOYD). While Willie, who's in need of a kidney transplant, and Albert have been roommates for twenty-five years, Joe shares his home with his daughter and granddaughter. But that's in danger since an introductory mortgage refinance rate has tripled on his house, resulting in a trip to the bank to discuss that.

During that, three armed men rob the bank of more than a million dollars, all of which brings in FBI agent Arlen Hamer (MATT DILLON) to investigate, but also gives Joe what initially appears to be a hare-brained idea. And that would be to rob a bank to make ends meets. His friends initially dismiss that thought, but when they learn their former company is moving overseas and dissolving all of their pensions, they jump on board, especially since the same bank that's now going to foreclose on Joe's house is also handling the pension issue. Their goal is to steal enough to equal what the rest of their pension payouts would be.

They decide to get their feet wet by attempting to shoplift from a grocery store, although Albert is initially unaware of the plan and finds himself in the romantic sights of Annie Santori (ANN-MARGRET) who works there. They end up getting caught, but store manager Keith Schonfeld (KENAN THOMPSON) chastises their actions rather than press charges. Undeterred, Joe seeks out his former son-in-law, Murphy (PETER SERAFINOWICZ), to hook them up with someone who might be able to help. That leads them to Jesus Garcia (JOHN ORTIZ) who does pet adoptions but also has a working knowledge about banks that could help the three novices.

From that point on, the seniors plot out their heist, pull it off, and then try to elude Agent Hamer's efforts of proving that they're the bank robbers.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
With my mom approaching the age of 80, we've recently been looking at finding a continuing care place for her to move into. There are various options, but in the vein of you get what you pay for, the best places are mega expensive. As in several hundred thousand dollars down and then anywhere from four to six thousand a month.

Taking that into consideration, I joked that she should rob a bank. Not necessarily to get the funds to afford such places, but rather to live the prison life. I was kidding of course, and there are obvious downsides, but it is interesting that in prison you get free lodging, free meals, free health care, a work program, daily exercise and even "community" events. And she might just learn how to whittle a shank out of whatever's available.

Of course, I'm not the first person to make that observation, and while I don't know when it first was discussed in movies, I do know it was brought up in the 1979 comedy "Going in Style." In that flick, Joe (George Burns), Al (Art Carney), and Willie (Lee Strasberg) are senior citizens who plot to rob a bank with the fallback option being a life in prison with many of the aforementioned amenities.

Considering Hollywood's obsession with remaking (or "rebooting") movies rather than making new ones, and with the continued dearth of films pegged at viewers of the AARP range, I'm surprised it's taken so long for a new version of this movie to be made. But now we have it, arriving with the same name but with Michael Caine, Alan Arkin and Morgan Freeman taking over their predecessors' parts in what's -- natch -- essentially the same film as the last go 'round.

Interestingly enough, it has just as much in common with last year's superlative "Hell or High Water." In that flick, the two adult brothers, facing foreclosure on the family farm, decide to knock off local branches of a larger bank (and the one about to take their mom's place) and use the "newfound" money to pay off the note. Here, two of the characters live together (platonically as friends), but it's the third who's facing foreclosure and thus being kicked out of his home along with his daughter and granddaughter.

Having just witnessed masked men knock off that bank with precision, Joe (Caine) believes he and his pals can do the same. But it's not until all three learn that their steel company pensions are being dissolved, and that process is being handled by the exact same bank, that they decide to become bank robbers and steal the amount of money that would have been owed to them in their retirement. Along the way they get expert advice from a pet adoption dude (John Ortiz) who knows a lot about banks, while Albert (Arkin) must contend with the romantic overtures of none other than Ann-Margret, Willie (Freeman) hopes for a kidney transplant and an FBI agent (Matt Dillon) ends up hot on the heels of the senior trio.

I haven't seen the original flick in nearly four decades, so I don't recall much about it. In forty years, the same might be said about this movie, but as a piece of diversionary escapism, you could do far worse than this offering. Besides, I'd watch a movie where Caine, Arkin, and Freeman sit around reading the phone book aloud, so getting to see them do their thing together is a treat, while the likes of Christopher Lloyd and Kenan Thompson get some funny material to work with, courtesy of scribe Theodore Melfi (writer, director and producer of "Hidden Figures").

Actor turned director Zach Braff keeps things moving along at a brisk pace and with some decent directorial flourishes during the pic's 96-some minute runtime. While it might not be as entertaining as the likes of "Ocean's Eleven" in terms of heist complexity (although there is a post-robbery breakdown of how things played out and hey, these guys are seniors so let's cut them some slack) and Dillon isn't anywhere as fun or funny as Jeff Bridges was in "Hell or High Water," the film is entertaining enough for what it's trying to do and be. And considering there aren't a lot of mainstream movies starring older folks aimed at older viewers, "Going in Style" does just that. It rates as a 5.5 out of 10.

Reviewed April 4, 2017 / Posted April 7, 2017

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