Going in Style is a remake of a 1979 film by the same name starring Art Carney, Lee Strasberg and George Burns. It was brilliant back in 1979, so I’m in, as the structure and premise compares to an older Ocean’s Eleven (I mean that was respect).
Desperate to pay the bills and come through for their loved ones, three lifelong pals risk it all by embarking on a daring bid to knock off the very bank that absconded with their money.
First and foremost, I love the trio of actors that director Zach Braff (and crew) put together for this film. Having Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin work together was brilliant. You have the calmness in Freeman, the eloquent-ness in Caine and the cynicism from Arkin. Combined they brought good timing of balanced humor, endearment and just a friendly atmosphere where old friends come together to rob banks. In short, they were the perfect cast for this fun film.
As for the actual film, it was good. Great? Not quite, as there were some character development issues here and there, but nothing that is even close to a deal breaker. The main crux of the story was done well, as the setup and the ‘backed into a corner’ plot point for the three men was plausible. Banks are heartless beings that will certainly throw someone out on their ass in a heartbeat, so seeing that as a driving point in the story and the reaction from Caine, as well as the screw job that Freeman and Arkin’s characters received from a longtime company that handles their pension helped push their characters into a believable scenario where they needed money to live. It also helped that there were supporting characters the also had some stake in the plot point’s claim.
Anyway, let’s get right to it.
The first act starts off brilliantly, as we’re introduced to Joe Harding (Michael Caine) an older gentleman that is about to have his house taken away from him by a bank for being behind on payments due to a shady loan the bank offered him. He houses his daughter and his grandchild, so a lot is at stake if he is thrown out of his home. During his ‘talk’ with an a-hole banker trying to find a possible solution (spoiler: there is none) the bank is robbed, which gives Joe an idea on how to save his home and his family. Talking to his friends, Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Albert (Alan Arkin), Joe devises a plan to rob the very bank that has taken so much away from him and to set him, and his friends, up for life. The issue? They’re old and they’ve never robbed anything in their life. The first act concludes with a test run of shoplifting inside a grocery store, which doesn’t go well, and they eventually have to go seek ‘shady’ help on how to rob a bank.
The first act is balanced, endearing and the situation Joe finds himself in is completely understandable and plausible. You could not have had a better first act and could not have ended on such an entertainingly funny note with the supermarket heist. Director Zach Braff doesn’t miss a beat with the setup and puts together a very strong first act, which leads smoothly into the second.
The second act begins with Joe seeking help from his ex-son-in-law, Murphy (Peter Serafinowicz), whom is a drug dealer and a deadbeat dad. He knows Murphy knows shady people and convinces him to introduce him to someone who can help them rob a bank, which leads them to a man named Jesus (John Ortiz). Jesus helps out the men get their planning and timing to get in/out of the bank on time. He also helps them put together a solid alibi, which is something they need to truly pull off the heist. By the end of the second act, the men end up robbing the bank and pulling off the unthinkable…or did they? The second act ends on celebration, as well as uncertainty about if they’ll get caught.
Love this act, as I felt like it hit all the marks on the main plot point. The downfall, though, is that the secondary characters, namely Murphy, come out of nowhere. We don’t really get any sprinkle of indication he exists in the first act, which makes him a placed character to move along the story. He’s basically a transition, as there is nothing built-up to him. It’s a small road bump to a larger amount of entertainment, but it is an imperfection nonetheless. Nonetheless, the second act works splendidly and you get a real sense of uncertainty about if the trio is going to get caught for their robbery. It’s a good way to conclude the second act and sets up the last act wonderfully.
Anyway, as in true Digitalchumps.com fashion, we don’t giveaway the third act. I can tell you that it unfolds beautifully, methodically and meticulously. Braff’s talent as a director and a strong screenplay by Theodore Melfi pull off an entertaining puzzle that is pieced together onscreen. I didn’t know if this movie was going to be a throwaway or not to an older audience, but thankfully it really does a great job of putting the pieces together to make sense of the story. I like that sorta movie and it harkens back to a time in the 70s/80s where movies were made to be entertaining rather than epic. This is the type of film you could watch on any given Saturday just for the entertainment value.
Overall, Going in Style is a warm comedy that hits the right beats, though not perfectly at times, but it never messes with the melody enough to halt the fun. It features a great cast, director and a good screenplay. Definitely check out this remake, as it’s worthy of your time.
On the special features side of things, you get commentary from Zach Braff and some deleted scenes. Wish they had included the original film for kicks. Anyway, not a lot here, but not terrible either.