When I saw the trailer for the new film Going in Style I thought it looked like a very fun film. 3 Academy Award winners in a film where they plan to rob a bank after their pensions are cancelled.  Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin robbing a bank?  Sounds good.  Then I saw Ann-Margret.  She is 75 years old now and she still looks STUNNING.  So I told myself when the movie comes out – I’ll go see it.

All was going to plan until the film got closer to release.  I learned that this film actually sat on the shelf for 2 years.  Why?  No reason…but usually when a film is shelved for that long of a period it is not a good sign.  They paid the actors, they spent the money to make the film, they cut it, they edited it together.  And then they put it on the shelf?  NEVER a good sign.  Then the reviews came out and they were abysmal.  Now normally I don’t give a crap what the reviews say.  If I want to see a film I’ll see the film – fuck what other people have to say.  But this time around some of the critics I actually enjoy reading hadn’t reviewed the film at all and the reviews I read simply called the movie dull and boring.  They said it was nothing compared to the original.  The original?

It turns out that the film is based on a 1979 film of the same name.  The thing is once I took one look at the 1979 poster and I remembered that I had read about the movie just a few months ago.  I was actually reading the Wiki for Gigli and decided to start looking at some of director Martin Brest’s better films.  Though Brest hasn’t made a picture since 2003 (and Gigli’s utter failure) he has made some amazing pictures like Meet Joe Black, Scent of a Woman, Midnight Run, and the original Beverly Hills Cop.  I had never heard of Going in Style so I decided to click on the wiki and read about it.  I remember thinking that the movie sounded very interesting and that I should watch it someday.  As my interest diminished for the new film I finally decided that I should catch the original – just for my love of Marty Brest alone.

The actors in the 1979 film are no slouches themselves.  Academy Award winner George Burns plays the reluctant leader of the “gang” which also includes Academy Award winner Art Carney (NORTON!) and Academy Award nominee Lee Strasberg.  The gang truly is old.  Burns was in his early 80’s when he filmed this flick – having just started a career revival thanks to The Sunshine Boys and would continue with the Oh God trilogy.  Strasberg was in his very late 70s and would actually pass on one year later in 1980.  Art Carney was “the youngest of the trio” only being around 60-something when the movie was released.  Unfortunately for Art he looks just as old as his fellow actors. Maybe (hopefully) it was just good make-up.

The film is about three old men who live together in a beat-up apartment in New York City.  They are pretty broke, just living on Social Security, and spend their days sitting on a park bench.  A trip to the bank gives Joe (Burns) an idea.  He wants to enjoy the rest of his life so he figures he’ll rob a bank.  He tells his plan to his roommates Al (Carney) and Willie (Strasberg).  They go get some guns and rob a bank.  If they get away they can live like fat cats for awhile.  If they get caught they go to jail with some free room and board.  Once they get out they’ll have all their uncashed Social Security checks and can live like fat cats for awhile.  Either way it is a win-win…unless someone gets shot during the robbery.  Al doesn’t care…he actually loves the idea.  Willie thinks they are both are nuts and wants nothing to do with them but soon changes his mind.

Joe comes up with a brilliant idea for actually robbing the bank.  They buy some cheap disguises (those awesome Groucho Marx glasses) and Al is able to still a few pistols from his nephew.  All they really need are the balls to pull of the heist.  They don’t think about it too much.  They just go to the bank and get the job done.  Funny thing is it works – goes off like a hitch.

While the trio get away with the heist it’s too much for Willie who suddenly passes away from a heart attack.  Left with a bunch of money but the loss of their dear friend Joe and Al decide to give some money to the nephew then head to Vegas to lose to rest of the cash.  Problem is they get just a bit too lucky at the craps table and end up with way more money than they ever thought they’d have.

The film is a dramedy – it looks like the new film is played much more for laughs while this film is pretty straight forward on the actual plot.  Three old guys rob a bank and we follow the highs and lows that come about from it.  There’s humor but not much.  It’s more of the situation and the delivery from these veteran actors than actual jokes in the script.  I think that’s the big difference having a writer/director like Martin Brest and the new film by Zach Braff.  Brest has shows time and time again he can make films like Going in Style, Midnight Run, or Beverly Hills Cop that aren’t comedies but can have humor in it (having Eddie Murphy star in a film in his prime certainly helps a ton).

This film takes you to places that you never thought it would go.  I really want to see the new version just to see if it has the same twists and turns that the 1979 version has.  It’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the characters in this film.  They have a brilliant idea in the bank robbery that they think they “pull off” but the repercussions are pretty far and wide.

As a kid I really liked George Burns thanks to the Oh God films.  I never knew he was a very famous comedian who went all the way back to the vaudeville days.  As I got older and got into comedians who performed in the vaudeville days like The Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, and W.C. Fields I got a huge appreciation for Burns.  “Say goodnight Gracie” is still a quote I use weekly.  I love the man and he really did have such major longevity in the industry.  He does a damn good job in this film and is truly the main reason to see it.

After watching this film I think it makes me want to see the new version even more just to see which way they took it.  Obviously the plots differ greatly from the start (the new film has the trio robbing the bank because of their lost pension where in the older film the three just do it…because) but this was just a good film.  There’s no wonder why the critics panning the new one continuously make mention of the 1979 film.  It is because it is a honest-to-goodness good film.  I’m sad it just took me this long to watch it.