Going in Style
by George Wolf
More than once, Going In Style tells us “it is a culture’s duty to take care of its elderly.”
If only the film had a funny way of showing it.
Instead, director Zach Braff takes three screen legends on a caper full of obvious writing, cheap slapstick and dressed up sitcom filler.
An update on the 1979 George Burns/Art Carney/Lee Strasberg vehicle, this new version stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin as Joe, Willie, and Al, three New York retirees who’ve just been screwed out of their pensions by corporate shenanigans. While Joe is fighting his home foreclosure notice with a smarmy bank manager, the bank gets robbed.
Joe’s impressed with the heist, and unimpressed with the detective (Matt Dillon) trying to track down the thieves, so why not give stickups a try? Let’s face it, even if the guys get life in prison, how long could that be? Because they’re so old! Man, those age jokes just get funnier the more they’re repeated, don’t they?
No, they don’t, and screenwriter Theodore Melfi, fresh off some fine work with Hidden Figures and St. Vincent, hits a major pothole on his road to straight up comedy. Seeing how these three veteran actors play off each other should be a treat in itself, but too much of the leadup to the actual bank job has the trio stuffing whole roasts down their pants at the grocery or sitting around watching The Bachelor. You know, because the thought of senior citizens watching that show is so outrageous!
It doesn’t help that Braff (Garden State, TV’s Scrubs) has all three actors overdoing the aches and pains of aging for most of the film, and only in the final few minutes, when the longtime friends are apparently rejuvenated by their crime spree, do you get the sense of any realistic characters with natural chemistry. The robbery itself, where Braff shows some stylistic flair and an instance or two of subtle visual comedy, seems stolen from another film entirely.
Perhaps even one that was interesting.