Starring Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margaret, Matt Dillon, John Ortiz, Peter Serafinowicz, Joey King and Christopher Lloyd
Based on the story by Edward Cannon
Screenplay by Theodore Melfi
Directed by Zach Braff
Out of Four
Reviewed by Patrick and Paul Gibbs
Last decade, we had widely successful remakes of Ocean's 11 and The Italian Job. The heist picture was back in, at least if you had a cast made up of a who's who of hot young stars. It is probably for this last reason alone that it took this long for Hollywood to look toward Martin Brest's 1979 caper classic Going In Style, which featured George Burns, Art Carney and theatre legend Lee Strassberg. But it had to be mined eventually, and as is usually the case with anything, if you're going to do something, you might as well do it with Morgan Freeman.
The premise here is pretty straight forward, centering on three men in their late '70's: Joe (Michael Caine) who is about to lose his home, and has nothing to leave to his daughter and his beloved grandaughter; Willie (Morgan Freeman) is heading into end stage kidney failure and hiding it from everyone, including the family he only gets to see once a year because he can't afford air fare, and Albert (Alan Arkin) a canterkerous old man who just accepts things as they are and doesn't hope for better, wishing the other two men would stop complainging so much. But when the company that employed them is bought out, and their pensions are lost due to restructuring, everything changes, and when Joe goes to the bank to talk about his foreclosure, he witnesses a harrowing robbery straight out of a movie (specifically, The Dark Knight.). He can't get the robbery out of his head, and eventually he decides that if the banks that owe him won't pay out one way, they will pay out another. It doen't take much to get Willie on board, and eventually even Albert decides to join in the caper.
There's no question that the cast is what sells this one, all the way, and Caine in particular is glorious. He brings a light comic excitement to planning the heist, but the dramatic edge he brings to his desperation and resentment are even better. Best of all is the depth of his relationship with his family, especially his grandaughter (Joey King, the delightful young actress from Ramona and Beezus, Oz The Great and Powerful and various Roland Emmerich films, the best of which, amazingly, was White House Down.). The highlight of the film is the story of Joe training his ex-stepson (Peter Serafinowicz) to step up to the plate and become a real father in case something happens to Grandpa. In truth, this plot is good it's hard not to wonder if that should have been a movie of its own, and it's where we really see the presence of screenwriter Theodore Melfi, writer/director of Hidden Figures. Freman is deligthful (even if the handling of the issue of his kidney failure strains credibilty), and while Arkin is given the weakest character, he still provides some great moments and plays very well off of the other two men. John Ortiz and Matt Dillon also add a lot in their supporting roles, as the career criminal who helps the old men plan the robbery and the detective intent on cracking the case, respectively. Christpher Lloyd isn't given a lot to do, essentially playing a senile Jim Ignatowski, but he is always a welcome presence on screen.
Now for the bad news: the broader the comedy, the less successful it is, and some of the more slapstick elements feel a bit forced. There is a cringe inducing moment involving a little old lady dropping an F-Bomb that is straight out of every truly awful '80's comedy, and Arkin's romance with Ann-Margaret is quite literally lifted straight from Grumpy Old Men. There is also a sequence involving marijuana that doesn't particularly work. The movie definitely has its share of misfire moments, which is unfortunate when it has so much going for it.
Director Zach Braff (star of the sitcom Scrubs and director of Garden State and Wish I was Here) knows how to work well with actors, and his sense of pacing is strong over all. He's better with the quiter moments, and when the movie tries harder to be goofy we see his sitcom background start to creep into his instincts. But he makes a few very smart choices, including a wonderful red herring, and he deserves more chances.
Going in Style is likely to get lost in the shuffle as the big releases such as Fate of the Furious hit theaters, but it's worth a look if you want a pleasant, character oriented comedy that doesn't take itself too seriously.
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