Going In Style was sold to audiences as a fun time watching three old pro actors – Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin – engage in a bit of thievery in their golden years. That’s more or less what the final movie delivered, but it could have been a bit more.
The story follows three old friends and co-workers, played by the actors named above, who find themselves in tough financial straits. Mortgages have ballooned to the point of being unaffordable, sickness is creeping in and more. That’s made worse when their already meager pensions, earned from decades of factor work, are eliminated when the company is bought by a foreign firm who feels it’s free from those obligations. After Joe (Caine) finds himself in the middle of a bank robbery he enlists his two friends in a scheme to pull off their own heist to get the money they feel is owed them.
As you’d expect from the trailer, much of the comedy in the movie comes from watching three old men try to take on the physical demands of executing a bank robbery that requires precision timing, flawless momentum and more. And as you’d expect, Caine, Arkin and Freeman all deliver amusing and professional performances, moving through the story with the ease and grace they’ve all acquired in decades of work. All three have at some point been referred to as dependable, even in sub-standard movies, elevating the material they’re given.
That’s exactly what they do here. The movie is enjoyable enough as a light-hearted comedy, which is how it was sold. It left me wanting more on a few fronts, though.
First, if you took out the plot about exacting revenge on the financial system, I’d watch a whole Grumpy Old Men-type movie with these three actors/characters. Again, Arkin, Caine and Freeman are such old pros that they know just how to fit into the characters and work through the story without breaking a sweat and I want to see more of the dynamic here. Just 105 minutes of them commenting on “The Bachelorette” and talking about pie.
Second, go the other direction and fully commit to a story of the impact the impersonal, financially-motivated actions of the financial institutions and international businesses have had on vulnerable demographics like the elderly. Because the movie keeps going for laughs related to planning the robbery it never dives below surface level on that front, saying it’s bad but never really exploring that idea fully.
Third, I have to admit I’m intrigued by the idea of Zach Braff taking on more “director for hire” type projects. He has such a reputation with his previous directorial efforts for telling personal stories of ennui and aimlessness in life that I want him to follow his comedic instincts a bit more. There’s nothing here that screams out as a distinct style or approach when it comes to comedy, but I think his fourth such movie down the road could be more interesting. It could be anyone behind the camera here, but I’m curious about what this could turn into.
If you saw the trailer for Going in Style or walked past the badly-Photoshopped poster at some point, you won’t be surprised or disappointed by what the final movie delivers. It’s more or less exactly what you’d expect, with a few surprises and story elements that aren’t explored in the campaign included. So it delivers on that front. I just think there are some other, more fully-committed approaches that could have made it a bit more intriguing.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.