Going in Style

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Going in Style
Theatrical release poster.
Directed by Martin Brest
Produced by Tony Bill
Fred T. Gallo
Written by Story:
Edward Cannon
Martin Brest
Starring George Burns
Art Carney
Lee Strasberg
Charles Hallahan
Music by Michael Small
Cinematography Billy Williams
Edited by Carroll Timothy O'Meara
Robert Swink
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
December, 1979 (U.S. release)
Running time
97 min
Country USA
Language English
Box office $29,900,000[1]

Going in Style is a 1979 caper film written and directed by Martin Brest. It stars George Burns, Art Carney, Lee Strasberg and Charles Hallahan. The casino scenes were shot at the Aladdin Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Plot synopsis[edit]

Joe (George Burns), Al (Art Carney), and Willie (Lee Strasberg) are three senior citizens who share a small apartment in Brooklyn, New York City. They live off social security checks and spend their summer days sitting on a park bench, reading newspapers, feeding pigeons, and fending off obnoxious children.

It is a dull life, and finally Joe is driven to suggest something radical to break the monotony. After their monthly visits to their local bank to deposit or cash their monthly social security checks, Joe privately suggests afterwords: "why not go on a stick-up?" None of them has a criminal history (though Joe claims he "did some stealing during the war"), but just planning the bank robbery fills them with energy and optimism. After they agree on a bank to rob in nearby Manhattan, Al surreptitiously borrows some pistols from the gun collection of his nephew, Pete (Charles Hallahan) who lives with his wife and children a few miles away. During Al's visit, Pete tells him that he wants to open his own furniture store, but the problem with his home's utility bills and mortgage hinders his expectations. Al hopes to use the bank loot to give to Peter and help him out financially.

A few days later, the trio, disguised with novelty Groucho Marx-style glasses, pulls off their heist, despite some complications, to the tune of USD$35,000 dollars.

Unfortunately, the excitement is too much for Willie, who suffers a fatal heart attack the same day. At his funeral, Joe and Al decide to give the bulk of the money ($25,000) to Pete and his family by telling them that it's a life insurance policy that Willie left them. Joe and Al decide to splurge the rest on a whirlwind excursion to Las Vegas.

Joe and Al depart for Las Vegas that afternoon after Willie's funeral where they check into a fancy hotel and decide to go gambling in the hotel's casino with them playing at a craps table. Expecting to lose about half of the money, they find beginners luck as they win more money totaling over $70,000. Joe notices several casino pit bosses angrily looking at them over their winnings which prompts him to force Al to stop gambling and retire to their room for the night. When Joe becomes worried that the pit bosses will come after them for their winnings, he forces Al to check themselves out of the hotel and they catch the first plane back to New York City, neither of them spending the night.

Joe and Al arrive back at their apartment the next morning, both very tired but very happy. Joe wakes up a little later and when he turns on the radio for the afternoon news, he hears that their eccentric robbery has become a colorful story for the media and the police announce that they are closing in on the "careless amateur criminals". Worried that the police might indeed be closing in on them, Joe tries to wake up Al, but soon sees that Al has died in his sleep, leaving Joe by himself.

Joe takes all the cash making up of both the bank robbery loot and the Vegas winnings (totaling a little over $107,000) to Pete's house where Joe confides in him about the bank robbery and the Las Vegas excursion, and of Al's death. Joe tells the distraught Pete to hide the cash and not to confide in anyone about it regardless of what will happen.

The next day, on his way to Al's funeral, Joe is arrested by the police... just like Joe was expecting them to. At a police station, Joe confesses to the bank robbery but stubbornly refuses to tell the authorities or an FBI agent where he had hidden the stolen cash.

In the final scene, Pete visits Joe in the state prison and says he'll find a way to legally free him, but Joe tells Pete not to bother. Joe explains that for years he felt like he was living in prison due to his dull life. Despite being incarcerated, Joe claims that he no longer has to cook or clean for himself, he gets three square meals a day, and generally is getting "treated like a king around here", due to the police hoping he'll reveal where the stolen money is. Joe tells Pete not to visit him again and to "enjoy his inheritance". In the final shot, as Joe is being escorted back to his cell by a guard, he looks mischievously at Pete and says with a wiry smile: "Besides, no tin-horn joint like this could ever hold me!"



The film opened to good reviews and helped launch Martin Brest into film. After this film, he went on to make comedy films that dealt with cops, criminals, and some unusual ongoings between them. Most of what he would make would be crime stories with funny twists and characters: among the films he did were the original Beverly Hills Cop and Midnight Run. The one film that Brest did which was mainstream was the comedy-drama Scent of a Woman, which earned Al Pacino an Oscar for Best Actor. Brest's debut with this film marked the only appearance together of George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg: they did other films apart after this one and died in later years. Although they portrayed three elderly men of approximately the same age, they spanned over 20 years in difference: Burns (born 1896) was 83, Strasberg (born 1901) was 78, while Art Carney (born 1918) was only 61 years old when the film was made.


A remake of Going in Style, written by Ted Melfi, is currently in development at New Line Cinema with Donald De Line as producer and Tony Bill as executive producer.[2] Melfi will also direct.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Going in Style, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved June 6, 2013. 
  2. ^ [1]

External links[edit]