7 April 2017 | Quinoa1984
Good for what it is, which is good enough (though mostly for the cast)
So here's the thing: if you told me, out of the blue, with no context whatsoever, that there was a heist flick with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin and Ann-Margaret (or you could have me at just Caine) where they plot to rob the Brooklyn bank that's screwed them over after a royal f***-over from their blue collar job, I'd say 'sign me up!' That it would also be a comedy wouldn't be so bad an enticement either; one might be reminded of something that could've starred these same actors from the 70's (ever seen The Hot Rock?) and spiked with some relevant social issues. Matter of fact, as I only recently learned, this is a *remake* of a movie from the 70's (whether it had the same horrible-bank horrible-company thing I'm sure I don't know).
The problem is it's now 2017 and their age can't be taken out of the text of the film - this is the Grumpy Old Men or even The Bucket List of NYC heist movies - and the director Zach Braff is a hack. Sorry, but... no, I'm not sorry to type that. While I haven't Wish I Was Here, Garden State is not simply in retrospect but what I knew at the time to be an unconvincing and cloying indie that had some decent acting and (not mutually exclusive) some highly self-conscious directorial moves and writing that... well, it didn't date well then much less now.
I don't mean to beat up on Braff's film - good for him for making a movie, it wasn't a crime or anything - except to point to how in his third film out he has moved up to now making an unconvincing and typical and safe middle-brow comedy. It's not that the trailer even showed anything like an edge, but... damn, he could've tried, not to mention some twists and reveals near the end that made me groan so loud I got looks from some of the AARP folks in the theater. Oh, and the social issues are dealt kind of up front and we only sort of see the consequences/ramifications of what this does to people (it's closer to the depth of something like Tower Heist in that way).
And yet I have an admiration for this movie getting to see these faces and, at the least, Braff doesn't get too much in the way of Caine and Freeman and Arkin to do what they can with Melfi's also safe script. They work well together and I found myself laughing more than I expected from if not all of the dialog (though there's one or two clever moments from Melfi) then from how they deliver it. There's lifetimes of experience and knowledge and depths of pathos from these actors, even with Arkin who always seems to be Cranky-Ass Arkin (but this is likely an act, so to simply be this personality so convincingly is impressive), and they play off with as much comedy as they can get from the supporting cast like Christopher Lloyd as a dementia-ish Knights of Columbus fellow and Ann Margaret as Arkin's would-be love interest.
The heist itself is shown in broad strokes and we can buy it because, um, movie. I was fine with most of it, up until it strains credulity though this is largely when the alibis have to come out and all of the loose ends come together (and even here I could believe it, at least in the predictable-safe world its set in). Maybe my critical standards are getting rusty and I should harsher on this, not the least because it features a set-up involving a botched preparatory theft of... ingredients for Chicken Cordon-Bleu from a small super-market that is paid off in a way that makes less sense than it should. I wanted it to do a little more, but what it gave me was fine - I may just be a sucker for this cast and that, for what morsels they're given, they do as much and then some with it. It's an excellent Laundromat Movie: if it came on while I was doing/waiting for my laundry, I'd be highly satisfied.
In a theater.... ehhh... Extra points too for Matt Dillon as a non-plussed cop and a humorous Keenan Thompson as the security hack at the super-market.