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Going in Style

A talented cast of elderly actors can't save this formulaic comedy caper.
By Sarah Ward
April 20, 2017
By Sarah Ward
April 20, 2017

What if a trio of old guys robbed a bank? That'd be funny, wouldn't it? That seems to be the only line of thinking behind Going in Style, which remakes a 1979 flick of the same name and brings together a thoroughly likeable cast of elderly actors, but doesn't rise above "aren't geriatrics hilarious?"-style humour. Attempting to bulk up its premise with a hefty tug at the heartstrings and a weak statement about ruthless financial institutions proves about as effective as chewing steak with dentures. Sure, you can give it a shot, but everyone knows that it's not going to work.

Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin play old friends Joe, Willie and Albert, who toiled away for decades together at a Brooklyn steel works, only to find themselves stripped of their pensions after a corporate takeover by an overseas company. But after Joe witnesses a slick holdup at his uncaring bank — an establishment that tricked him into a loan with a nasty interest rate, is now threatening to take his house away, and happens to be handling the pension debacle — the three hatch a plan to reclaim their entitlements via a caper of their own.

Given the talent the film puts on screen, Going in Style probably could've worked quite well without throwing in the sob stories. Alas, the script by Hidden Figures writer-director Theodore Melfi is determined to justify the characters' newfound criminal urges in the most blatantly sappy and cliched ways that it can. Accordingly, Joe has to save the home where his daughter and granddaughter also live, while Willie is in dire need of a new kidney. Former musician Albert takes longer to warm to the stickup idea, probably because he isn't blighted with his own sad tale; instead, he's more preoccupied with his new romance with a grocery store clerk (Ann-Margaret).

The fact is, Caine, Freeman and Arkin are all much, much better than the material they're saddled with. If there's any fun to be had here, it's in watching the three Oscar winners sit in a diner bickering and bantering. Any time they're tasked with supposedly comic hijinks, you're left wishing they were all in a better film; a horribly executed sequence in which they attempt to shoplift from a local supermarket as a practice run for their big heist is a prime example. Still, they fare much better than their poor co-star Christopher Lloyd, whose hammy performance might make you exclaim "great Scott!" in horror.

Although he's helmed two movies already, in Garden State and Wish I Was Here, Actor-turned-director Zach Braff is still best known for starring in the small screen hospital comedy Scrubs. Perhaps it's not a coincidence, then, that his latest effort feels more like a bland, formulaic sitcom pilot than it does a feature film.

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