Review: Going in Style

Director: Zach Braff (Garden State, Wish I Was Here)
Story: Edward Cannon
Screenplay: Theodore Melfi
Producer: Donald De Line
Starring: Joey King, Ann-Margret, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Christopher Lloyd, Matt Dillon, John Ortiz, Kenan Thompson
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 96 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found on LetterBoxd

 


Hollywood has truly hit a point now where basically anything is ripe for a remake or reboot or revival, whatever they decide on calling it, with the end result ultimately being dredging up some title from the vault for a new coat of paint on the same old shell. We’ve gotten now to the extreme of seeing remakes of remakes, like last year’s Magnificent Seven and the upcoming Scarface. Instead of using acclaimed, still popular and widely seen sources like those though, which tend to give off the stench of being made primarily for monetary reasons, the more enticing remakes (which is admittedly a bit of an oxymoron) are ones of films that had solid concepts that maybe didn’t reach their full potential, or ones of films that have been long forgotten and aren’t known these days by the large majority of viewers. Going In Style would be an example of the latter, remaking the 1979 Martin Brest film starring George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, which was a minor hit in its day but has faded from the public awareness in the decades since.

The tale of three down on their luck pensioners who plot to rob a bank, this version stars Oscar winners Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, and is quite bizarrely directed by Zach Braff of all people, from a script by Hidden Figures writer/director Theodore Melfi. Thankfully, Braff holds off on the whimsy and indie cliches that have defined his previous directing efforts, instead delivering a straightforward and feel good little comedy that banks on the appeal of its starring trio more than anything else. In that regard it works in spades, as all three actors bring a different flavor to the mix that makes for a pleasant concoction, and they have wonderful chemistry with one another. Freeman brings his sage wisdom and gravitas, Caine is the suave gangster with dry British wit, and Arkin (who oddly starred in the similarly themed Stand Up Guys a few years back with Al Pacino and Christopher Walken) is the boisterous wild card who gets all of the biggest laughs.

There are some nice stylistic touches as the men plan their robbery, with Braff bringing a kind of cool ’70s touch to the film’s style that makes it feel like a throwback to the era of the original from time to time. Mostly though, it feels like a director for hire gig, which it probably was given the failure of his last film and the fact that he (fortunately for the audience) didn’t write or star in this one like he has with his other directing efforts. Ultimately, Going In Style is a pretty soft pitch straight down the middle that doesn’t reach for much, yet it also never feels like anyone here is sleepwalking or just resting on their laurels. They’re having a good time and they translate that fun to the viewers who sit down with it. Like the kind of dinner they offer up at 4pm at the nursing home, it’s safe and goes down nice and easy, but you won’t feel any reason to talk about it afterwards or even remember it a few days after you’ve finished. Basically, if the idea of watching Caine, Freeman, and Arkin giving heated commentary while watching an episode of The Bachelorette is your idea of a good time, then Going In Style is a moderately amusing way to kill 90 minutes without straining you much.