We’ve all been there. Aggravated to the breaking point by intolerable mistreatment from the man. There’s only so much one can withstand before the strings of sanity snap and we take matters into our own hands. More often than not, our level-headed decision making skills win out, but occasionally the flippant disregard for rationality can’t be ignored.
Take the case of Going In Style’s septuagenarians Willie (Morgan Freeman), Joe (Michael Caine), and Al (Alan Arkin), three blue-collar Brooklynites who just discovered that they’ve been screwed out of their factory pension and retirement plans. Now they’re mad as hell. Armed with the hopeless thoughts of having nothing left to lose, the desperate trio take matters into their own hands and concoct a plan to rob the very bank that shares some of the responsibility for their current financial situation.
Of course this is all just a toothless rehash of the same-named 1979 bank-heist caper that starred three equally-revered actors of the day in George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg. Only this time around, gone is most of the bite, and nearly all of the fun that endeared the earlier film to a generation of fans.
This version is directed by an unusual choice in TV veteran Zach Braff whose earlier films, Garden State and Wish I Was Here, bore delightful Indie sensibilities and none of the cliched Hollywood moments that rob his latest of any individuality and all personality.
The script is by Theodore Melfi who brought us last year’s Academy Award-nominated Hidden Figures, and who has a unique affinity for attracting big name A-listers. But with Going in Style, the writer fails to inject his script with any sense of tension, darkness, or real emotion. We’re left with a steady stream of old geezer jokes that barely tip the funny meter. Sure, it’s always fun when Freeman, Caine, and Arkin are on the screen together, but more often than not, the jokes fall flatter than a warmed-over bowl of oatmeal.
Joe is the mastermind of the hair-brained scheme. Behind on the mortgage and facing foreclosure which would put not only himself, but his daughter and young granddaughter out on the street, Joe tries to convince his pals of a one-time plunge into the underworld of revenge, redemption, and the chance to finally stick it to the man.
Buddies Willie and Albert share a house across the street and pass off Joe’s mindless scheme as the ramblings of a lunatic. But with Willie’s immediate need of a life-saving operation, the two basically trick Albert into helping out. Their plan: steal just enough money to replace their stolen pensions, then give away the rest.
Big on geezer humor, Going In Style is mostly harmless and innocuous. But that’s partly the problem. While picking fun at old people is certainly low hanging fruit, that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, charming and enjoyable as well. It really is neither. One segment that features a practice run in a grocery store before fully committing themselves, brings smiles but is never laugh-out-loud funny. Willie, Joe, and Al hit the local supermarket to shoplift a few things to see if they are up to the task, but quickly discover they’re terrible at it. The scene ends with Willie running through the parking lot with a roast in his pants, Joe with a dozen eggs in his coat, and all three escaping on a motorized cart.
One bright spot is the brief appearance of the always-delightful Ann Margret as the sassy grocery store clerk who has the hots for Albert. But a turn by a drooling, incoherently disoriented Christopher Lloyd is unfunny and handled mostly in poor taste.
Going In Style is certainly not a terrible film. It’s brief, mostly good-natured, and populated by an entertaining cast that can bring interest to nearly anything. But like a watery bowl of gruel, it’s not much fun to choke down, nor is it particularly nourishing once you do.
(Released by Warner Bros. and rated “PG-13” for drug content, language and some suggestive material.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.