May 20th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Morrison's budget jive lacks inherent harmony

CANBERRA OBSERVED Does budget do heavy lifting or is it "Labor lite"?

NEW ZEALAND Porn poll shows strong majority supports default opt-out policy to protect kids online

FRANCE Emmanuel Macron: a president without a political base

YOUNG POLITICAL ACTIVIST TRAINING (YPAT) Seven-day intensive course without equal in Australia

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Taiwan to go full steam ahead with submarines

RURAL AFFAIRS Murray Goulburn closures an omen of an industry in crisis

CLIMATE SCIENCE Temperature hasn't risen in 20 years: latest data

QUEENSLAND ENERGY 50 per cent renewables target: Is it credible?

LITERATURE Inexplicable: the ongoing appeal of H.P. Lovecraft

LITERATURE The gentle giant: Samuel Johnson

MUSIC Promissory notes: the public funding siphon

CINEMA Going in Style: Old dogs turned rookie robbers


BOOK REVIEW An abstemious revolutionary

BOOK REVIEW Soviet-era thriller revels in details

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Going in Style: Old dogs turned rookie robbers

by Symeon J. Thompson

News Weekly, May 20, 2017

Generally speaking, bank robbery is seen as a bad thing. The same can be said for highway robbery, and sea robbery, also known as piracy, and outback robbery, also known as bush ranging, and any other examples of robbery one might care to think of.

However, as much as these are seen as bad things in real life, when it comes to fiction, often they end up being seen as good things, or at least justifiable things, especially when the robber has a good reason for his robbery and the person being robbed is actually more of a villain.

Joe Harding (Sir Michael Caine, age 84), Willie Davis (Morgan Freeman, age 79), and Al Gardner (Alan Arkin, age 83) are old friends and retirees who rely on the pensions they earned as a result of many years long service at a local steelworks, pensions that have suddenly stopped being paid, without explanation.Such stories become a fictional way to get back at the powerful and uncaring, and act as a sort of catharsis for the ordinary folk who see an unfair world but can’t really do anything about it. This is especially the case in a world post-global financial crisis, where the losers are often those same ordinary folk, and where the business and political elite seem to have gotten off scot-free. This is the setting for Going in Style, a light-hearted and comedic heist film with the added twist that all the robbers are senior citizens.

Joe is at his bank to discuss his mortgage – one of those “teaser” ones that came to cause so many problems in 2008 – when a robbery takes place. The robbers escape with a lot of money, but not before Joe notices that one of them, who sympathises with Joe’s situation, has a distinctive tattoo. The investigating FBI agent, Agent Hamer (Matt Dillon), takes note of what Joe says, but in the most patronising way possible.

After this, the friends find themselves called to a special meeting by their old employer. They discover that the company has been taken over, that all operations are being shifted to Vietnam, and that as a result, their pensions have been frozen.

Outraged, Joe suggests that they should rob a bank. He reasons that the insurers will cover the cost and, if they’re caught, they’ll be looked after. At first, Willie and Al are opposed, but Willie quickly comes around. And after Al discovers that their pensions are going to be used to pay off their old employer’s debts, he agrees to take part.

After their first attempted robbery, at a local convenience store, fails in dramatic and hilarious fashion, the old timers decide they need help. They go to Joe’s ex-son-in-law Murphy (Peter Serafinowicz), a medicinal marijuana dealer who puts them in touch with Jesús (John Ortiz), an “animal rescuer”, who agrees to show them the ropes.

Going in Style is a light-hearted and entertaining film, so much so that the packed cinema I saw it in was roaring with laughter. Rounding out the comedy cast is Annie (Ann-Margret, age 76), a grocery store clerk who’s keen on the saxophone-playing Al, the store manager Keith (Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson), and the senile Milton (Christopher Lloyd, age 78), as well as Joe’s daughter Rachel (Maria Dizzia) and granddaughter Brooklyn (Joey King).

The film is directed by Zach Braff, best known as J.D. from TV’s Scrubs, who gives it a light and cheery touch, and written by Theodore Melfi, who wrote and directed the Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures.

Unlike many recent comedies about old folks, where the humour comes from being as crass as possible, Going in Style prefers to maintain its dignity. There is some swearing, but it’s not a feature. This is a movie that relies on the charm and talent of its leads. These gents are so watchable that, if there was a movie that just had the three of them chatting on a park bench, it’d be worth watching.

Going in Style is inspired by the 1979 film of the same name, itself inspired by a story by Edward Cannon. That movie had George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg as the leads, and, while technically a comedy, has a much more bitter and melancholy edge.

This is not a serious or realistic movie, but it is an engaging and cheerful piece of cinema. If you want something more serious about banking iniquity and bank robbery, go watch the cleverness of The Big Short, or the superb and brutal, rural noir of Hell and High Water. But if you’re looking for an enjoyable way to spend some time, Going in Style is for you.

Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics’ Circle of Australia (FCCA).

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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