“It feels like we’ve lived two lives: one before the robbery, and one after.”
When three elderly roommates — Joe (George Burns), Al (Art Carney), and Willie (Lee Strasberg) — decide that robbing a bank is a “win-win” proposition, they steal guns from the safe of Al’s nephew (Charles Hallahan) and carry out their crime, with unexpected ramifications.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Black Comedy
- Elderly People
- New York City
Writer-director Martin Brest’s second feature-length film — after debuting with Hot Tomorrows (1977) — was this unusual black comedy which never fails to go in unexpected directions. Little of the storyline is realistic enough to be believed, but that seems besides the point, given that we’re meant to empathize with the sorry lot of these men who find their lives unsatisfying enough to commit a major robbery with loaded firearms.
Unfortunately, we’re not given a reasonable-enough rationale for Burns’ radical (and actually NOT funny) idea, nor are we told quite enough about the other two men to understand their willingness to agree with him. (Strasberg is given one highly affecting moment of reflection back on a poor parenting choice:
… and we see Carney’s love for his nephew’s working-class family — but that’s it.) With that said, highly effective use is made of authentic New York City locales and extras, and Brest directs numerous scenes (i.e., those taking place in Vegas) with a refreshing naturalness.
This one is worth a look, though not must-see viewing.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fine performances by the leads
- Excellent use of authentic New York City sets
No, but it’s recommended. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.