Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour min.
Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 1; Language 2; Sex/Nudity 3.
Our star rating (1-5): 3 1/2
Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power—with no one to comfort them.
Like the 1979 comedy starring George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg, this remake is based on the incongruity of the age of its protagonists and the daring deed that they pull off. And we are again led by somewhat dubious moral reasoning into going along with their justification of their deed.
Director Zach Braff directs Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin as three retired steel plant employees dependent upon their pensions. Joe Caine) lives in Brooklyn with his daughter and granddaughter, and Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin) share the house across the street. They hang out together almost every day, often eating at a café that serves bad coffee but good pie, served by a waitress who easily hold her own against their banter.
The film begins with Joe is disputing with his banker because of the recently tripled mortgage payment that he cannot afford. The banker unsympathetically points out to the fine print which states that his original payments were initial payments that would go up in several months. No, there is nothing he can do to help Joe. This guy would make a good partner for old Potter in that movie you watch most Christmases.
The three buddies attend a meeting called by their former employer to inform them that their pensions are ending. The company is closing the plant and moving out of the country. The pension fund will finance the closing and the move. To make matters worse for Joe, it is his bank that is handling the finances of the company.
Little wonder that Joe wants to strike back at the financial predators who have stiffed him and his two friends. How they do so is great fun, with even a bit of romance thrown into the crime intrigue by Ann Margaret who plays a supermarket clerk who goes after Arkin’s Albert. After the hilarious hold-up and getaway, Matt Dillon also shows up as an FBI agent deeply suspicious of the boys. And Siobhan Fallon Hogan is a hoot as the sassy waitress Mitzi whose kindness beneath her gruff exterior is rewarded with a tip big enough to buy the restaurant.
We laugh at the crazy antics, and yet if you stop to think about Joe’s speech below, you realize that the context of his words is sobering, even grim:
Joe: “These banks practically destroyed this country. They crushed a lot of people’s dreams, and nothing ever happened to them. We three old guys, we hit a bank. We get away with it, we retire in dignity. Worst comes to the worst, we get caught, we get a bed, three meals a day, and better health care than we got now.”
The officials of “these banks” and the Wall Street con men “crushed a lot of people’s dreams, and nothing ever happened to them.” (Well, maybe a few were prosecuted) As a group they stole far more money than bank robbers, but does this justify our three buddies’ act? Lots of people probably would say “Yes,” as can be seen by the success of Hell or High Water, a serious film in which bank robbers are hurting a lot more than Joe, Willie, and Albert.
This review with a set of questions will be in the 2017 issue of VP.