‘Going in Style’ Review: Lacking in Either Style or Substance

'Going in Style'

Movie Rating:


Hey, you know something? Old guys… they’re just like us! I know they might seem cranky and dated, but in the end they can do anything. Even rob a bank. Can you imagine? Wouldn’t that be hilarious? No. The answer is no.

To be fair, the first time Hollywood made ‘Going in Style’, it was a decent little heist comedy. Written and directed by Martin Brest (‘Midnight Run’) and starring George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg, the 1979 film was a lark that mixed melancholy humor and drama for entertaining effect. This time, everything about ‘Going in Style’ is big, broad and offensively obvious. Three Oscar winners signed on and none of them get to do much beyond cracking lame jokes about being old and leaning on their established personas to give the illusion of character. With these vets doing their thing, the movie should have been at least mildly enjoyable. However, hiring Zack Braff to direct took care of that. On the plus side, at least Braff finally seems willing to admit he’s a hack by tacking this thankless assignment. That’s something.

Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin star as three old dudes who are best buds and can’t get a break in the system. They’ve been screwed over on their mortgages by banks and lose their pensions when their former manufacturing plant moves overseas. Between trips to the diner to munch on small pieces of pie in the world’s most irritating metaphor, the trio eventually decide that they should rob a bank. If the system could so easily screw them, they may as well screw the system right back.

You might think this means that ‘Going in Style’ is a comedy with a social agenda. That’s true. The 1979 ‘Going in Style’ did indeed have a social agenda. As for this limp and lame remake? The social commentary is just window dressing for more jokes about back pain, not understanding the internet, and a high speed scooter chase. What did we do to deserve this?

It should be noted that Caine, Freeman and Arkin are all still strong cinematic presences who deserve a little more attention before Hollywood sends them out to pasture. It’s just a shame that this is the best the system can offer these retirement age movie stars. (Hmmm… maybe that’s the secret message of the movie… No… NO… That’s giving Zack Braff too much credit.) While the movie has flickering moments that will remind viewers why they fell in love with these three old-timers back when they were young-timers, those moments are fleeting and depressingly brief. For the most part, the film is an embarrassment for the performers. It’s a series of scenes that poke fun at their age and barely ever addresses their talents. While it was theoretically designed to make viewers go, “Oh yeah, I loved those guys,” the real response will be more along the lines of, “Geez, has it really gotten so bad for those guys that they’d agree to this?” It’s tragic.

Letting Zack Braff direct doesn’t help. He’s the guy who swindled everyone into thinking he had a cinematic voice back in 2004 when he slapped a fantastic soundtrack on a garbage collection of indie clichés in ‘Garden State’. A few years ago, he got a film financed through Kickstarter because the studios didn’t believe in his beautiful vision. The result was ‘Wish I Was Here’, a boring movie so instantly forgettable that you just had to go to Google to remind yourself what I’m even referring to. By taking on a bloated studio comedy as lame and empty as ‘Going in Style’, Braff is essentially giving up on that auteur stuff that he pushed for so long.

As much as it would have been fun to get paid a few million to hang out with Caine, Freeman and Arkin for a few months, you’d then have to spend hours editing this swill and wondering what happened to your life. That probably explains why the movie has so many overly-stylized montages desperately attempting to bring life into this mess through flashy editing. It didn’t work. The saddest part is that the pain of suffering through this pointless production may have given Braff the blast of existential angst he needs to write another movie about a privileged sad sack Zack Braff type who deserves more respect in life. Good lord. I almost hope that ‘Going in Style’ is a hit just to save us all that pain. Almost, but not quite.

*If you’re inclined to dismiss this review because the film was intended for an older audience who’ll hold it to a different standard than myself (a reasonable assessment, by the way), let me share a conversation that I overheard an elderly couple have behind me near the end of this flick:

Wife: Wake up. You’re snoring.

Husband: What?

Wife: You missed the bank robbery.

Husband: I did? Oh, who cares? I know what happened. This is so stupid.

Amen, old man. Amen. This is one case where I’m more than happy to defer to my elders.

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