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Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style (2017) movie poster Going in Style

Theatrical Release: April 7, 2017 / Running Time: 100 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Zach Braff / Writers: Theodore Melfi (screenplay); Edward Cannon (story)

Cast: Morgan Freeman (Willie Davis), Michael Caine (Joe Harding), Alan Arkin (Albert Garner), Ann-Margret (Annie Santori), Christopher Lloyd (Milton Kupchak), Matt Dillon (FBI Agent Arlen Hamer), Joey King (Brooklyn Harding), Maria Dizzia (Rachel Harding), Peter Serafinowicz (Murphy) John Ortiz (Jesus), Siobhan Fallon Hogan (Mitzi), Josh Pais (Chuck Lofton)

 

Old man comedy is basically a subgenre on to itself. While actresses who aren't Meryl Streep get mother of the protagonist roles after hitting 50 and pretty much nothing else after that, accomplished male actors get to continue acting much longer,
some of them enjoying lead roles into their seventies and eighties. Once in a while, these men will get a movie that lets them laugh at their advancing age: Grumpy Old Men, Last Vegas, Grudge Match, Youth, etc.

Going in Style appears to be in the same vein as such comedies, with its core ensemble consisting of Academy Award winners Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin. The three men have a combined 246 years between them. All of them have held old man duties before and despite being octogenarians (or in Freeman's case, nearly so), none of them has been hard up for work lately, with appearances in an assortment of blockbuster and prestige fare.

A remake of Martin Brest's somewhat obscure 1979 comedy starring George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, Going puts Caine in the foreground as Joe Harding, a retired steel worker who has not been receiving his pension payments lately. This is especially troubling since Joe's mortgage rate has just shot up, putting his house in default. While consulting with a compassionless banker (Josh Pais) who explains the predicament he's in, Joe becomes witness to a robbery that sees three masked men making off with over a million dollars in cash and not getting caught.

In "Going in Style", retired steel workers Albert (Alan Arkin), Willie (Morgan Freeman), and Joe (Michael Caine) try to make sense of their dissolved pension plans.

It takes a while, but Joe convinces his two best friends and former co-workers, Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin), also in dire straits from the dissolution of their company's pension plan, that the three of them should rob the bank that's about to take his home. They'll steal only what they would have made from their pension plan and donate the rest to charity. Plus, a deep-pocketed insurance company will take the loss, so it's pretty much a victimless crime at least as far as needing moviegoers to sympathize with them.

The old New Yorkers quickly turn themselves into potential bank robbers with some guidance from Jesus (John Ortiz) and some pot grown by Joe's son-in-law (Peter Serafinowicz, convincingly playing American).

The screenplay by Theodore Melfi, which seems to be another step back following his directorial debut St. Vincent and crowd-pleasing Oscar-nominated follow-up Hidden Figures, does indeed include some age jokes. "Are you five-o?", asks Jesus, to which Joe responds "We're practically eight-o." But gladly it's not the endless parade of dumb old men gags that Last Vegas was. A romance develops between Albert and a well-preserved grocer (Arkin's Santa Clause 3 wife Ann-Margret). On a more serious note, Willie is experiencing renal failure and may soon die if he doesn't get a kidney, a battle he keeps secret from his friends.

Going doesn't rely too heavily on its high concept, relegating the actual heist to probably around ten minutes of screentime. And it does actually sympathize and humanize these characters, keeping the picture in line with the feel-good nature of Melfi's two prior screenplays.

Willie (Morgan Freeman), Joe (Michael Caine), and Albert (Alan Arkin) make an appearance at a charity event before skipping out to rob a bank.

Though you probably wouldn't suspect it without seeing him in a pre-film PSA encouraging kidney donation, Zach Braff is the director of Going in Style. Braff, best known to TV viewers for his lead role on the long-running, much-syndicated hospital comedy "Scrubs", graduated to auteur status as writer-director-star of the acclaimed, hit 2004 indie Garden State. He followed that up with 2014's Wish I Was Here, a film few saw and fewer liked. Now, Braff, who has mostly faded from on-camera work, accepts director for hire duties here.
Does he bring anything to Going in Style that Melfi or a TV-seasoned director like Ken Kwapis wouldn't? Not noticeably. Braff has no illusions of this being anything but a mid-sized, off-season studio movie. It is not going to get good reviews, but there are much worse films than this in every genre, including the geriatric comedy subgenre.

It is nice to see living legends Caine, Freeman, and Arkin sink their teeth into roles slightly more substantial than the supporting duties they take in bigger new films. It is less nice to see Christopher Lloyd, making it to theaters for the first time in a while, looking and acting ancient (even though he's slightly younger than all three leads) as a senile older senior. But the whole thing, though never inspired or particularly amusing, is pretty harmless, even down to an inane final scene funeral fakeout.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Sense of an Ending Beauty and the Beast
Michael Caine: The Muppet Christmas Carol Interstellar The Dark Knight Rises
Morgan Freeman: Last Vegas Oblivion Million Dollar Baby Dolphin Tale
Alan Arkin: Love the Coopers Stand Up Guys The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause Argo Get Smart Grudge Match The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Ann-Margret: Old Dogs | Written by Theodore Melfi: St. Vincent Hidden Figures

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Reviewed April 7, 2017.



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