You may have noticed in the last few years a new genre has emerged that I can only call, the elderly comedy genre. These films, which range from the bad Last Vegas to the groin punchingly bad Dirty Grandpa, are all pretty similar. Basically, you get some veteran actors you really respect, Morgan Freeman is usually one of them, and they basically become curmudgeonly old men who then do something wacky that you don’t expect old people to do. Shenanigans ensue of course. These films are uniformly terrible but maybe, just maybe, we’ll finally get a good one with the release of Going in Style.
Due to their pensions being dropped following the buyout of the company they work for, friends Joe Harding, (Michael Caine, The Dark Knight) Willie Davis (Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption) and Albert Garner (Alan Arkin, Argo) are all broke and are unsure of how they can now help their families. In one desperate attempt to make sure their loved ones have something from them, they attempt to rob the bank that took their pensions, to begin with.
What’s nice to see is that director Zach Braff (Garden State) is actually trying something a bit different. If you only know him for Scrubs and that funny cameo in Arrested Development, he has got a bad reputation in the last few years for his two previous movies, Garden State and Wish I Was Here, for being the most stereotypical indie dramas you could possibly encounter. Even though Wish I Was Here wasn’t that bad, what it represented for a certain type of film with an overly emotional protagonist and a soundtrack that only gets regular play in Starbucks. So while Going in Style isn’t the most original film in the world, it is something different from Braff and the fact it is a fairly well-made movie shows he can do something other than quiver his lip.
However, in going away from making unoriginal indie dramas, Braff has made an unoriginal heist movie. We all know the beats to Going in Style, a group of unlikely people team up to plan a robbery, they take much time to plan out every single detail, they do the heist and then just as it looks like the police are going to catch them, they reveal a really clever plan that proves their innocence and makes sure they get away scot free. Going in Style does every single story beat I mentioned there and isn’t really bothered about doing anything different. I can’t say that they do any of these beats wrong, each hit their mark and it’s all well executed, but there isn’t a trace of originality in this picture.
What helps all these familiar story beats mesh together is a great cast. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin are all great actors and while they aren’t doing stellar work, they are doing what is needed just fine. For a heist movie, you need enough charm to make the potentially evil thing seem like the right thing to do and these guys have it in spades. Quite frankly, I’d follow Michael Caine to the ends of the earth if he asked me, I’d even go to his attic (sic), and he’s just great to watch in this movie. Both Freeman and Arkin are obviously not getting out of first gear, but they don’t really need to as their chemistry is fine as is.
However, I do wish the script was better for them as it might actually make this film something a bit different from the pack. As noted at the start, this is a movie in the elderly comedy genre and we’ve already established that this film isn’t really one to break out of the pack and do something different. So every other joke is about the fact they are old. They take a lot of pills, they are slow walkers and probably don’t have much longer left to live. All of these jokes are made around 100 times each and while they might get a chuckle the first couple of times, it’s well performed and delivered by the actors involved after all, but the 64th time it does get a bit tired. All it needed was a bit of a refresh, make the jokes about the characters and not their age perhaps?
I don’t want to beat down on the movie that much because while there are problems with it, they aren’t that major. The film is never very forward with its problems, they only really present themselves when you think about it a bit. This is a movie which is just pleasant to watch through because heist films are rarely not fun. Because of as much as I’ve criticised this film for the clichés of this genre I’ve used, I do kind of love these clichés as well. The use of flashbacks at the end to show how clever our crew has been to evade the cops? Boy, do I eat that up. The actual heist itself when everything we’ve been seeing gets planned out actually works out and them barely escaping when things go wrong? Yes, it’s been done a million times before yet it does work. Got to give the film some credit for having these enjoyable moments.
I’m afraid to say Going in Style will be forgotten very soon. Maybe even by the end of this review. The film doesn’t do anything new and is just one of those movies which doesn’t really leave much trace in your mind. But that doesn’t mean you should just dismiss it right out of hand. The cast has good chemistry and while the movie is the same as every heist film you’ve seen before, it does do it well which means you can just enjoy the clichés because they are quite fun. If you see it come up on the TV schedule, delay your nap and have a watch.