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The late movie critic Gene Siskel used to have a yardstick for movies: "Is this film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?"
When you have three acclaimed, Oscar-winning stars Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin with a combined life experience of more than 246 years, Siskel's lunch rule may be an impossibly high bar for a light-fingered caper comedy like "Going in Style" to meet. But that doesn't mean the movie doesn't benefit considerably from those actors' charms.
Joe (Caine), Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin) are retired steelworkers living in Brooklyn. Joe lives with his daughter Rachel (Maria Dizzia) and his razor-sharp granddaughter Brooklyn (Joey King), getting by on Rachel's paycheck and Joe's pension. Willie and Albert live as roommates across the street in a house paid for by their combined pensions.
Then comes the bad news: The steel mill where they worked is being closed in a corporate buyout, and the new conglomerate is running off with the pension fund. Joe also is facing foreclosure, because the pension fund has been frozen. One day, as Joe is trying to talk sense with a loathsome loan officer (Josh Pais), a trio of masked gunmen rob the bank, getting away scot-free in under 2 minutes.
Joe, after watching the robbery and meeting the clueless FBI agent (Matt Dillon) in charge of investigating it, becomes convinced that he and his buddies can rob a bank, too. Persuading Willie and Albert to go along is the first step. Then they find Jesús (John Ortiz), who knows the criminal mind and helps them plan the robbery and, more important, their alibis.
Director Zach Braff ("Garden State," "Wish I Was Here") proves here he's more than the sum of his meticulously selected soundtrack choices. He wisely gives his leading men room to work, surrounds them with a sharp supporting cast including Ann-Margret as a neighbor who's sweet on Albert and Christopher Lloyd as an absent-minded fellow retiree and lets them loose.
The script by Theodore Melfi ("Hidden Figures," "St. Vincent") and remaking Martin Brest's 1979 movie that starred George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg is a little slack in the early going. It pays off big in the end, though, when the question of whether the guys will get away with their plan is answered with wit and gusto. Like the movie's geriatric characters, "Going in Style" takes some time to get moving, but is sure-footed at the finish.
'Going in Style'
Three retirees plan a bank robbery in a warm and witty remake of a 1979 comedy.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens Friday, April 7.
Rating • PG-13 for drug content, language and some suggestive material.
Running time • 97 minutes.