What happens when three 75–year-old men walk into a bank? They try to rob it.
“Going in Style” tells the story of three lifelong friends who attempt to rob a bank after their pension plans are dissolved by the steel company for which they used to work. In a scathing critique against greedy corporations and unethical banks, “Going in Style” is a buddy comedy built on the charisma of its three leading actors: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin. However, the chemistry among Caine, Freeman and Arkin is not enough to make this merely passable film into something memorable.
Much like similar comedies tackling the serious subjects of aging and death, such as “Last Vegas,” starring Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas and Morgan Freeman, “Going in Style” suffers from an identity crisis. In order to be marketable, the film does not seem to know if it wants to be a raunchy comedy film featuring dirty old-timers, like “Bad Grandpa,” or an action movie with comedic elements, like “Ocean’s Eleven.” Instead, it tries to appease the audience in every conceivable way and fails to take even the slightest of risks.
“Going in Style” ends up a soft PG-13 with a few blink-and-you-miss-it R-rated moments. Director Zach Braff, known for his role as J.D. from “Scrubs” and his directing skills in the cult-classic “Garden State,” dropped the ball on what could have been a great movie.
Braff was unable to strike a balance between the movie’s raunchiness and family-friendly themes. Scenes of Caine’s character developing a stronger relationship with his lonely granddaughter and urging his nervous wreck of a son-in-law to take a more active part in her life appear thinly developed and out of place in such a bombastic film. It is hard to create touching moments with scenes of old geezers smoking weed, general monologues about the frustrations of old age and superficial reflections on the inevitability of death. Furthermore, Braff’s poor direction trivializes important issues like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and the lack of quality care for elders in the United States, and turns them into tasteless gags and subpar punchlines.
Along with the Caine-Freeman-Arkin trio, the film’s supporting cast features quite a few impressive names. Matt Dillon jumpstarted his career as a heartthrob with performances in “Little Darlings,” and “The Outsiders” and gradually became known for his versatility and in well-received performances in “There’s Something About Mary” and the Academy Award-winning “Crash.” In “Going in Style,” Dillon plays a likeable, but flat, FBI agent in charge of investigating bank robberies. Along with Dillon, the film features Saturday Night Live alumnus Kenan Thompson. While Thompson does not have the same dramatic range as does Dillon, he brings to the film his comedic chops as a lauded, longtime member of SNL.
Thompson plays the head of security at a local New York City supermarket, from which the old-timers steal in preparation for their bank robbery. What is frustrating about Dillon and Thompson’s performances is not their lack of quality, but the waste of their talent on one-dimensional characters. Every supporting character is bland, and it remains a challenge to connect with them beyond a superficial level.
If anything, the performances by Dillon and Thompson appear as anemic references to their own celebrity in other films and television shows. Under a better screenwriter, who could have added interesting side stories, or even just better jokes, the film would have been hysterical when either Caine, Freeman or Arkin interacted with Dillon and Thompson.
The biggest insult of the film is the waste of Christopher Lloyd, best known for his role as Doc Brown from the “Back to the Future” franchise. Lloyd is a slapstick humorist and is not afraid to get knocked around if it will enhance the overall comedic elements of the movie.
In “Angels in the Outfield,” he proved to audiences that he could sprinkle in sentimentalmoments during his comedic films, demonstrating that a little heart and empathy never diminished a story. Saying that Lloyd’s character is squandered in “Going in Style” is an understatement. Instead of having a standalone arc or at least some good one-liners, Lloyd’s character is clunky and hollow at best.
“Going in Style” is a movie that heavily relies on shallow archetypes and tropes that the audiences have already heard and seen. It is a passable movie with a few redeeming moments through the concentrated charisma of Caine, Freeman and Arkin, but, through poor script and direction, falls completely flat. “Going in Style” is a movie with the potential to be great, and yet, it flounders as it pretends to be many things it simply is not.