What else can Hollywood do with the elderly? It’s made them into dolts. It’s made them into geniuses. It’s even, for goodness sake, put them into space (in Space Cowboys). Now, in a re-make of a 1979 movie, they’ve turned them into bank robbers.
Enter Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin, three friends from yore who hang out together on a daily basis, doing everything from commenting on asinine TV shows to discussing the advisability of tucking into an out-of-date pie at their local diner.
But when Caine becomes threatened with foreclosure on his house and Freeman is informed he needs a kidney transplant very soon ‘or else’…it’s time to think seriously about ‘the folding stuff’.
Caine comes up with the idea of the robbery after being the victim of one himself, and of being ‘shafted’ by the system. This is something that will strike a chord with anyone over 50 in our own country who’s seen their life’s savings dwindle to nothing due to the erratic behaviour of bank officials. (A joke that went the rounds during the troika bail-out went: “What’s the best way to become a bank robber these days?” Answer: “Open one.”)
They’ve all worked hard all their lives but have nothing to show for it. Now it’s payback time. So they start planning the heist. They don’t want a penny more than they’re owed by their pension fund from it.
This is a pleasant film that plays into most of the stereotypes of former celluloid senior citizens. While not exactly a Fun With Dick and Jane for golden agers, or a geriatric version of Bonnie & Clyde – though it veers dangerously close to this Scylla and Charbdis – it likes itself a little too much for comfort.
The script should have been a little less glib and repetitive. (The amusement quotient of hearing the phrase ‘young man’ applied to near-octogenarians wears a bit thin after hearing it the sixth or seventh time.)
The main leads could have phoned in their performances but that doesn’t make them any the less risible. Like ageing hoofers going through tried and tested dance routines they hit the marks with deft precision every time.
The main problem, of course, with films which depict seventysomethings as incontrovertibly kind and witty souls – with a Robin Hood attitude to money – is that not all elderly people have these qualities. To suggest they do is to fall into the same trap as those who would have us believe that when you get to bus pass age you become cranky and demented. It’s inverse ageism.
We also get a romance between Arkin and Ann-Margret. Their boudoir cavortings have an adolescent feel about them but Margret looks incredible. Not too different, in fact, from when I watched her cosying up to Elvis in Viva Las Vegas over half a century ago.
What’s her secret? Has she been robbing banks too?