Saturday, April 22, 2017

Going In Style

This is the poster for the 2017 movie starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin. I saw it a week or so ago as I write this (after leaving this post on "coming soon" mode during one of those weeks when there is no time, day or night, to do anything but work). Before I go into "Three Scenes that Made It For Me," my latest strategy for a highly successful movie review, I would like to take a moment to compare it to the 1979 of which it is a remake. Below, there's a still from the original Going In Style, starring (from left) George Burns, Lee Strasberg, and Art Carney as three geriatric buddies who decide to try a late entry into the career field of bank robbery. In their version, they get away with bags of cash in spite of their disguises being no more than three identical pairs of Groucho Marx glasses (you know, with the fake nose and mustache) - including one that broke and had to be held in place with one hand. One of the buddies promptly drops dead of a heart attack while they're celebrating their escape from the heist. A third one dies in his sleep not too long afterward, leaving one lonely old guy - I believe it was the George Burns character - to face the time when the police catch up. I seem to recall Burns' character had an adult son who became an accessory after the fact, hiding the money so the cops would never find it, or something like that.

It wasn't really a very funny comedy. But it was a much more honest movie than this happy-ending-fest, in which Morgan Freeman's character fakes us out with a serious illness (kidney disease, in his case) that looks like it's going to do to him what Lee Strasberg's heart did in the 1979 version. You probably remember Strasberg as Jewish mobster Hyman Roth in The Godfather, Part II. He was a serious thesp, an acting guru to many of the leading "method" hams of the mid-20th century, but not a big-name movie star. How did he get top billing with George Burns and Art Carney? I'm guessing it was the fact his role called for serious acting ability but, knowing his character was going to die halfway in, there was no point casting a big star. Your first clue things were going to change up in the remake is the casting of Morgan Freeman (who, like Burns, has played God). Caine is no slouch, but I think most Americans would agree Freeman is the big box-office star in this picture. No way can you kill him off at the halfway mark, even with Caine carrying the point of view (mostly) and Arkin getting the romantic subplot (opposite Ann-Margret, who seems to be reprising the role she played opposite Jack Lemmon in "Grumpy Old Men").

All that aside, here are the three scenes that made the movie for me. First, I love the scene in which the police detective, played by blast-from-the-past Matt Dillon with a light touch of whatever it is that makes it fun to see him frustrated, walks into a diner where Caine has just realized the money launderer sitting across from him is also the bank robber who held him at gunpoint at the beginning of the movie. How the two of them escape without the cop realizing the laundered loot is right under his nose is simply amazing. I thought it could have been played for just a little more suspense, but it's still a highlight of the film.

Second, every scene involving the little girl who peeks under Freeman's mask during the big heist is downright breath-stopping. First, she starts to peel his mask off when he has a mild fainting fit during the robbery, and she is innocently concerned about his ability to breathe. Then, she shows up for a police line-up... whew!

Third, in spite of a cute scene in which the old guys try their shoplifting skills and end up in a ridiculous low-speed chase, the funniest moment in the movie for me was the three-way phone conversation between the principals, late at night, as Caine tries to convince Freeman and Arkin to rob the bank with him.

Among the notables in the cast are a very aged-looking Christopher Lloyd as a somewhat demented friend of the hero trio; a strangely sympathetic Peter Serafinowicz (whom I picture as more of a villain-type actor) as Caine's lowlife son-in-law, a comically wimpy white-collar lowlife played by Josh Pais of TV's "Ray Donovan," an earthy waitress played by Siobhan Fallon Hogan (Shia LeBoeuf's mother in "Holes," the wife of the bug's Edgar suit in "Men in Black," and Renée Zellweger's tapioca-making buddy in "New in Town"), and of course, Zach Braff of TV's "Scrubs" in the role of... director. Hmmm...

No comments: