GOING IN STYLE ½
PG-13, 96 mins.
2017, PG-13, 96 mins.
Morgan Freeman as Willie / Michael Caine as Joe / Alan Arkin as Albert / Joey King as Brooklyn / Matt Dillon as Hamer / Ann-Margret as Annie / Maria Dizzia as Rachel Harding / Christopher Lloyd as Milton / Siobhan Fallon as Mitzi / John Ortiz as Jesus
Directed by Zach Braff / Written by Theodore Melfi
GOING IN STYLE is cinematic comfort food: It's simply prepared, has nostalgic and sentimental value, tastes relatively good and goes down without much fuss.
The film has
multiple identities - it's a remake, a grumpy old men comedy of errors,
and a bank heist film. Most
importantly, it's a gathering together of three industry thespian
heavyweight titans of the movies in Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and
Alan Arkin, all of whom have won acting Oscars.
GOING IN STYLE doesn't score points for genre originality (it's a
mechanical paint-by-numbers affair for all involved), but it gets
considerable mileage out of the wonderful on-screen chemistry of the
aforementioned actors. They give the film a natural, easy going, and lived-in level
of camaraderie when the script built around them ostensibly feels
artificial and contrived.
The film is based
on the 1979 Martin Brest comedy of the same name (unseen by me) and
George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg as a trio of old codgers that
decide to rob a bank to help make ends meet.
This new iteration copies the overall premise of its antecedent,
albeit with alterations here and there to modernize it for contemporary
consumption. Caine, Freeman,
and Arkin play Joe, Willie, and Albert respectively, three life long bosom
buddies that spend a lion's share of their retirement years in each
other's company. Joe resides
with his daughter and granddaughter and is facing mortgage issues with his
local bank, whereas Albert and Willie share a home together right across
the street. Outside of their
financial woes, the men seem, for the most part, happy and content...that
is until they discover that their former employer is purchased and is having
most of their labor and supply force being cheaply outsourced out of
country. As an added kick to
their geriatric balls...their current pensions are eliminated by the new
financial and emotional wit's end, Joe is inspired by being a witness at a
local bank robbery that - wait a tick! - maybe he and his BFFs could
indeed rob a bank as well...provided that they have a full proof and
airtight plan of attack that would ensure their getting off scot-free.
As Albert matter of factly and sarcastically points out, he and his
buddies are beyond over the hill and questions their collective abilities
to be physically up to the challenge of a daring bank robbery.
That, and there's the threat of being caught and spending the rest
of their few remaining years behind bars.
Joe thinks it's a win-win: If
they rob the bank undetected they will be financially set until their die,
whereas if they're caught they will be given lodgings, three meals a day, and
have no financial burdens on the inside.
Realizing that their options are limited, the trio embarks on their
crazy scheme, but first need some much needed help from a local
underground criminal (Jon Ortiz) that will teach them the ropes of pulling
it all off.
really only one reason to see GOING IN STYLE and that's for its lead
actors. The individual
characters that Freeman, Caine and Arkin are called upon to play are by no
means acting stretches for any of them (Arkin in particular is saddled
with yet another Allan Arkinian character through and through), but it's
really, really difficult not to be taken in with the level of low key and
effortless charm that they all bring to the proceedings.
Now, the underlining premise of seventy-something men planning and
implementing a bank robbery is, on paper, beyond ridiculous, but the
actors here all somehow make the build up to said robbery seem somehow
credible. Of course, the film
contains the predictable requisite elements of humor directed at their
advancing decrepitude, but Freeman, Caine and Arkin are such wonderful
company to behold that you're almost willing to forgive such stilted scripting contrivances.
And GOING IN
STYLE does have its share of deeply amusing moments, especially in the
build up and preparation to the team's bank heist.
One sequence in particular is a howler, involving the three
criminals-to-be doing a dry run at a local grocery store to see exactly
what they can get away with stealing and in the quickest manner possible
(it culminates with a great sight gag involving Caine and Freeman making a
daring getaway...on a motorized scooter).
There are also some inspired scenes between Arkin and Ann-Margaret,
the latter who plays an aging sales associate at that super market that
takes a strong liking to Albert, which builds up to the pair becoming
inseparable sex pals. Margaret
is in fine form playing her senior citizen sex kitten to Arkin's sardonic
wise ass whose crusty outer defenses crumble to her erotic advances.
I don't want to
spoil many of the details of the bank robbery itself, other than to say
that the film finds a clever manner of subverting our expectations of it
by dealing a few nifty twists and turns in its aftermath that keep the
story moving gingerly along. One
area that GOING IN STYLE definitely misses the mark on is in its many
undercranked subplots, all of which are vying for storytelling attention,
but receive very little from writer Theodore Melfi (HIDDEN FIGURES).
There's a dealt with, and then forgotten about family arc involving
Joe and his daughter's deadbeat loser of an ex-husband (a criminally
underused Peter Serafinowicz) that probably could have been excised from
the film altogether. Then
there's a potentially juicy subplot involving the smug FBI agent (a game
Matt Dillion) that's
looking to book Joe, Willie and Albert for their crimes, but without
sufficient concrete proof. There's a potentially compelling angle here of the younger
generation thinking that they're infinitely smarter than the older one,
which the film flirts with, but never fully capitalizes on.
GOING IN STYLE
could have also benefited from being a bit edgier with its social commentary, especially considering our somewhat bleak economic woes
and times. The screenplay
displays great promise in terms of tapping into the angry working class
psyches of its elderly characters, but its overall approach is pretty
glaringly black and white (banks and corporations = bad, old men being
screwed over by those systems = good).
There's something inherently sad and tragic about men that devoted
their lives and well being to a broken financial system that will
unavoidably crush them, but GOING IN STYLE feels achingly soft pedaled in
attempting to go to any potentially dark thematic areas.
More often than not, the film's whimsically light hearted and
inviting tone doesn't allow for a more somber examination of what's
happening to Joe, Willie, and Albert.
My biggest disappointment with GOING IN STYLE is discovering that it was directed by Zach Braff, who way, way back in 2004 made the splendid GARDEN STATE, a dramedy that struck a cord with me so much that I put it on my list of the ten best films of that year and left me thinking that Braff was a new breed of empowered and talented actors turned directors. It's disheartening to see that he's done nothing with his directorial career to match his superb debut effort 13 years ago (2014's well intentioned crowd funding effort WISH I WAS HERE didn't recapture GARDEN STATE's freshness of approach). Braff's work in GOING IN STYLE lacks...well...style and his past displayed esoteric fingerprints. Ultimately, considering the massive talent in front of the camera and Braff's affinity behind it, this film should have felt less pedestrian and workmanlike. GOING IN STYLE is a pleasurable romp to watch because of the caliber of its leads, to be sure, but as a film worthy of a theatrical ticket price, GOING IN STYLE is a modestly endearing rental at best.