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Going in Style: Remake robs the original of its risks

Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman in Going in Style.

Atsushi Nishijima/Warner Bros. Entertainment

2 out of 4 stars

Going in Style
Written by
Theodore Melfi
Directed by
Zach Braff
Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin

In the original version of Going in Style, George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg robbed a bank because they were bored. By the end, two had died and one was in prison. And I remember more from it, which I saw when it came out in 1979, than I do from this remake, which I saw last month.

Director Zach Braff (Garden State) and screenwriter Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures) are determined to award their bandits – Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin – a happy ending. So they justify the robbery (the trio's pensions evaporated), and give them a ridiculously easy path to success.

But that's a misreading of what a happy ending is. I leave the cinema happier if I've been emotionally satisfied – if something has been risked, even lost, as well as gained. Having no emotional stakes leaves me cold, and leaves three cheeky actors with nothing to play. These characters are staring down death. They should be raging against the dying of the light, not going gently into their early-bird supper.

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