Review: Going In Style – “A feel good film that chugs along at its own amiable and inoffensive pace”
Michael Caine isn’t known for being too picky with his acting roles. The 84-year-old cockney geezer famously never saw the result of his work on Jaws: The Revenge, later admitting “by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific”. This easy going attitude hasn’t stopped him obtaining legendary status though, even picking up two Oscars and he’s still going strong today. His latest film, the pensioner caper Going in Style sees him star alongside two other highly celebrated actors; Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin.
If we reviewed films purely on potential, Going in Style would be pretty likely to get a high score. Take three veteran stars who between them have a total of four Academy Awards (and countless nominations), throw in the sitcom star turned director Zach Braff, add a half decent supporting cast that includes Christopher Lloyd and finish with a promising comedy concept and you should end up with a good film. The question then, is whether Going in Style can reach the high expectations of its setup?
The plot is an updated version of the 1979 film of the same name. This remake, however, uses ‘greedy bankers’ and ‘corporate mergers’ as a cause to push three geriatric retirees to tipping point. This is handily setup from the opening scenes as Joe (Caine) heads to his bank, default notice in hand, to get an explanation. As he discovers rising mortgage costs will push him out of his home, masked robbers suddenly swoop making off with thousands of dollars from the bank. This gives Joe an idea, and with his pals Willie (Freeman) and Al (Arkin) they set about remedying their money woes by planning a heist of their own.
The close bond between the three main characters can only work if their friendship seems believable and the film pulls this off with a heartening sense of chemistry between the lead actors. Caine, Freeman and Arkin are definitely effective in giving a feeling these guys have been together for a long time. The admirable performances notably also explore the moral balance between the crime and its justification which in turn allows the comedic tone to flourish (more on that later).
The same can’t be said for some of the supporting cast, which is more of a mixed bag. Joey King steps up as Joe’s daughter Brooklyn and Matt Dillon is competent as an FBI agent tasked with hunting down the ageing criminals but the rest are either unremarkable or a waste of talent. Christopher Lloyd fills a slightly misjudged role as a dementia suffering pensioner whose only apparent job is to appear every now and then to draw some laughs from forgetting things and Peter Serafinowicz is unable to flex his comedy skills in the role of a frankly boring deadbeat dad.
Zach Braff has a steady directing hand and is able to let the comedy (which you won’t be surprised to learn, mostly revolves around elderly hi-jinks) naturally evolve in some of the film’s better parts. There are some particular scenes that do raise a few laughs including one involving Morgan Freeman sat in the basket of a mobility scooter escaping the law and the central heist scene is a satisfactory pinnacle. Beyond this, the comedy in the film feels much too safe, as if Braff and scriptwriter Theodore Melfi were too fearful of pushing any boundaries. Ultimately you go away with a sense of not seeing anything you haven’t seen before.
Going In Style is a feel good film that chugs along at its own amiable and inoffensive pace. Which is all fine but it creates a kind of film paradox, it’s a help and also a hindrance. On the one hand, it has a positive effect, giving a feeling a bit like a warm blanket or watching BBC’s Antiques Roadshow on a Sunday night, it seems familiar and its light and jaunty tone is enough to keep you watching. However, it’s also a fundamental problem as it renders the whole thing quite an anonymous experience. There is nothing new or different here and while it’s actors are more than capable, they are let downby a script with limited laughs and a predictable path.
Overall it’s a light-hearted film about family, friends and how you should never underestimate your elders. There isn’t anything to particularly dislike about it all, but nothing much to rave about either (as the youth would say, it’s very ‘meh’). It’s the type of innocuous film that would be suited for watching on a flight or putting on for your grandparents when they come over to visit, but it will leave you wondering how good it could have been. It’s all held together by Caine, Freeman and Arkin and whilst it’s a satisfactory watch which might raise some laughs, it’s not the type of film that you will want to see again in a hurry.
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