Going in Style – “A frustrating example of piss jokes and crotchety old men becoming the most important factor”

The title, Going in Style, chuckles at the twilight years of the lead actors. It hints at a possible bucket list, as the men ensure they pass on with a bit of style. Strangely, other than throwaway gags, these guys intend on living forever and the title is simply a neat trick to ensure it reaches its target market: men of a similar age. Of course, like-minded men is exclusively the audience, as their traditional, cynical outlook and assumed wisdom is what defines the characters.

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But it is that dated, dreary attitude combined with a shallow plot and messy final act that drags Going in Style down, despite director Zach Braff desperately trying to fill the film with an energetic flair.

Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Albert (Alan Arkin) are informed that their pension will cease to pay out. They all have debts to pay off and families to see or take care of, and together, decide to rob the bank responsible for all their woes. While many would champion the anti-establishment theme, this is only the excuse to thrust the film into a big heist structure. The team get together, they conduct a small robbery and they plan the heist before we see, Oceans 11 style, the crime play out. These three charming actors are comfortable to be around and the clichéd story is used so often because it’s a fun watch. In that respect, many will appreciate the tried-and-tested formula of the movie.

 

But scratch the surface and Going in Style fails, with no attempt to say anything significant whatsoever. There’s limited back story to all the characters and considering how the closure of factories, cuts to pensions and the banking crisis are very real issues, it is a shame script writer Theodore Melfi (adapting a novel by Edward Cannon) couldn’t fuse a little contemporary depth to the proceedings. Zach Braff, slumming it with a mainstream comedy after heartfelt indie Garden State and Kickstarter misfire Wish I Was Here, does inject pace and some clever techniques to amp up the tension. Blueprints sprawl across the screen and smart influences on the heist itself lift the film ever-so-slightly from the doldrums of mediocrity.

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But Going in Style still lacks the punch and clout to truly make a mark. It functionally serves as a satisfactory piece of entertainment. When you have a set of actors of this calibre, it can’t be ignored how bland and flat the characters are. There’s an arrogance to each role as they stick to their traditional attitudes. The detectives are dumb and these older gents, clearly, are more intelligent than them all. Nevertheless, we are expected to accept their caper as a likable solution to their problem, that they are all faultless family men and are all more intelligent than the city police. Going in Style is a frustrating example of piss jokes and crotchety old men becoming the most important factor to a film. It held so much potential, but favours forgettable slapstick humour over relevant plotting and poignant characters.

This was originally written for Culturefly in August 2017

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