GOING IN STYLE
Director: Zach Braff
Starring: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margaret, Christopher Lloyd, Matt Dillon, John Ortiz, Joey King, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Kenan Thompson
Between Alan Arkin, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman, they have a combined fifteen Oscar nominations and four wins. At this stage in their career, they’ve lightened up and are taking on the goofy, bumbling, senior guy roles. The movie opens with Joe (Caine) meeting with a banker to discuss the envelopes he’s receiving from the bank stating that his house is in jeopardy. They’ll seize it from him if he doesn’t pay his mortgage. Right then and there, they become the victims of a bank heist. Joe later commiserates with his friends Albert (Arkin) and Willie (Freeman) over pie at their local diner. They’ve been friends for decades and were coworkers at a power plant. Willie is suffering from severe kidney failure and is nearing his final months if he doesn’t get a transplant soon. To make things even more complicated, the three of them find out that the plant is closing and that their pensions will be dissolved. Joe takes a page from the robber and suggests a bank heist to Albert and Willie as a way of making some fast cash. Albert’s a bit hesitant, but at their age, they have nothing to lose. A failed attempt at robbing a grocery store makes them realize they will have their work cut out for them if they want to attempt a bank. They hire a pot dealer to help put their plan in place to rob the very bank that’s looking to seize Joe’s house.
If you’re thinking that this title and premise sound familiar, you are correct. It’s a modern day remake of the 1979 film of the same name. That starred George Burns, Lee Strasberg, and Art Carney as the three leads. If you’ve never seen that, it’s best to think of this one as Hell or High Water meets Grumpy Old Men. Both of those films are better than Going in Style. This isn’t a negative review, but it’s best just to approach it with the right frame of mind. It may star these distinguished Oscar winners, but they’re just out to have some fun and their chemistry together is very evident on screen. This is the sixth collaboration between Caine and Freeman after their work in the Now You See Me and Dark Knight franchises.
There are other familiar names attached behind the camera as Zach Braff of Scrubs fame directs with a script by Theodore Melfi. Melfi was a two-time Oscar nominee a few months ago for his work on Hidden Figures. Again, it bears repeating that no one here is trying to outdo anything they’ve worked on before, merely take a side detour.
I wouldn’t say that Going in Style has the consistent humor that Grumpy Old Men does, but it relies heavily on the clumsiness of old men who haven’t a clue as to what they’re doing. The whole escapade of them robbing a grocery store has the guys stuffing meats down their pants and in their coats as they try to sneak away from the security guard. This leads to Freeman and Caine riding a motorized scooter “E.T. style” before they’re caught and brought back into the manager’s office. Other fun bits involve Ann-Margaret blatantly putting the moves on Alan Arkin, Freeman and Caine getting high on strong weed, and the three of them watching and heckling over The Bachelorette together. As much as I love Michael Caine, it’s Christopher Lloyd who’s the scene-stealer of the movie. It should come as no surprise that he’s playing someone who’s hard of hearing and lost his marbles a long time ago.
As you can clearly tell, this isn’t a movie necessarily set in reality. It’s purely made to get a few good chuckles out of the audience who are probably all around the same age as these characters. It will easily appeal to that demographic, and they will no doubt love it. I can already hear my in-laws reaction to it. Melfi and Braff throw in a few references to other heist movies like Dog Day Afternoon and The Rat Pack version of Ocean’s 11. While it’s here mainly for the laughs, there are some touching moments along the way. Caine has an especially close relationship with his granddaughter and he’s driven to keep the house he shares with her and his daughter. There’s also the kidney storyline for Freeman which bonds the men together even more in the final few scenes.
You don’t go into Going in Style looking for high art. You’re there because it’s a joy to watch Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman, Christopher Lloyd, and Ann-Margaret play off each other. There are times when the jokes don’t land or you feel like they’re trying really hard to play into easy tropes in the “old guys in a modern hip world” routine. On the other hand, there are just enough genuine moments in the film to keep the audience amused. Others may not catch it, but I find it ironic that Caine and Freeman have two of the most recognizable voices in Hollywood, yet their characters think they can pull off a heist and not get noticed.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? It’s easy light-hearted good fun.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS