Directed by Zach Braff
Starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin
Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman), and Albert (Alan Arkin) are barely managing to make ends meet in retirement, with bills and the terrible economy taking its toll. Despite a lifetime of hard work, Joe is in danger of losing his house, and the company pension plan of their former workplace has been frozen as assets to pay corporate debts. When Joe is witness to a daring bank robbery, he hits upon a desperate plan. What if the last people anyone would expect to commit a crime, rob a bank. With nothing to lose, the others start to consider his mad scheme, but can the three aged friends really pull it off?
In many ways Going In Style can’t win. An almost complete reworking of the little remembered 1979 George Burns’ vehicle of the same name (by director Martin Brest – Scent Of A Woman), this modern version lacks something of the kick of its previous iteration. Theodore Melfi’s (Hidden Figures) script and Zach Braff’s direction have produced a toothless knock-off. A great idea, that despite ramming some political messages down the audiences throat, lacks the biting dark humour to make it stick. Instead we are given a watered down, easily digestible piece of cinema, aiming to be a crowd pleaser. Where it does stick to the seventies DNA, is mainly in stylistic choices; the numerous uses of split screen, a few nods in the soundtrack, and the mean streets feel of Brooklyn (although significantly gentrified over the subsequent decades). In all it’s just window dressing, a hint of retro cool to spruce up the modern setting, and you can feel that cynical attempt to cash in on that.
What saves it is the cast. Everyone seems exactly right for the role, and they are veteran enough to make it appear effortlessly charming. Michael Caine has certainly had enough tough guy roles in the past, that even in his eighties we can see that hard edge poking through. Yet he also manages to temper that with interaction between friends and family, so you can see the softer edge. Morgan Freeman is in a similar position. Alan Arkin, is the odd one out here, but manages to cache that into an acerbic and eccentric performance. The chemistry between the three and their interaction with the rest of the cast, lifts this above the often trite script. They have a sense of comedic timing and manage to land the majority of the jokes.
Hence what we are left with is inoffensive entertainment, a generic geriatric heist comedy that values style over substance. It may not do too much, but what it does it does well enough. Its a gentle tale with nothing confronting, just a little bland by comparison.