For, Friday, April 7, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: The new movie ‘Going in Style,’ opening today with Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin, is a remake of a 1979 comedy-drama that I reviewed for the Deseret News on Jan. 9, 1980, and which is reprinted below. It opened in major cities in December 1979 but was ‘platformed,’ which means it began playing across the rest of the country more gradually, hoping to garner favorable reviews and word of mouth along the way. Which it did, and the film was a hit. Here’s my review of that film, which is available on DVD and various streaming sites.

“Going in Style” is one of those movies that you expect to know before entering the theater — no surprises here, right? Wrong.

This soft, gentle comedy-drama is full of surprises. It offers excellent performances, an awful lot of fun and a blow to the psyche about the American habit of placing old people on the shelf.

Sadly, it is probably being overlooked by most moviegoers because it was released in the midst of the year-end crunch of big-budget holiday films.

“Going in Style” offers George Burns in his acting debut. Oh, I know you’ve seen him in “The Sunshine Boys,” “Oh, God!” and “Just You and Me, Kid,” but this movie gives him an opportunity to really act — to play a character other than himself. And he’s terrific. Burns makes us laugh, cry and better understand what it’s like to be old in America.


George Burns, Lee Strasberg, Art Carney, 'Going in Style' (1979)

“Going in Style” is about three elderly men who are bored with life on a park bench. They live together in a New York tenement, they sit on a park bench each day, cursing the children who play in the adjacent playground, and they stare into space a lot.

Then, while depositing their social security checks in a local bank, Burns notices all the cash lying around. He thinks about it all night and the next morning springs it on his friends: “You guys want to go on a stickup with me?”

He’s serious.

One of his companions balks, but the other likes the idea. Burns explains that if they get away with it they can live out their lives in luxury — and if they don’t, they might get three years in prison, which would be no more boring than their present lives, and they’d have thousands of dollars in social security checks waiting for them when they got out.

That, however, is just the beginning of “Going in Style.”

The movie is not without problems; some of the plot is extremely implausible, but the dialogue is fun, the direction deliberate and insightful, and the performances are grand.


Burns, left, Carney and Strasberg rob a bank in 'Going in Style.'

Burns’ cohorts are Art Carney and Lee Strasberg. They are superb, but we already knew they were fine actors.

The surprise here is Burns. He has never shown such range before. He is hilarious as he tries to figure out which bullets fit in which guns before the planned robbery and he’s heartbreaking as he sifts through personal memorabilia of his life as a young man.

We never find out much about the background of Burns, Carney or Strasberg, but we care intensely about all of them.

“Going in Style,” rated PG for some profanity, is currently playing at Trolley Corners, the Cottonwood Mall and the Carriage Square Trolley.

It’s not a perfect film, but in this season of super-hype for space movies, raunchy comedies and loud marathon extravaganzas, “Going in Style” is an excellent choice for any moviegoer.