Film Review: Going in Style

An embarrassing, unfunny movie that leaves a bad blemish on the late careers of its stars.
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Maybe there’s some sort of Hollywood formula for deciding when a movie is ripe for the remake treatment. But you may have to be as old as the cast of this crime-comedy remake to even remember the 1979 original, which starred George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg. Presuming you haven’t seen or heard of that movie, it’s a fairly simple tale of three aging friends who decide to rob a bank.

As this story begins, Michael Caine’s Joe Harding is at his bank being told by the manager (Josh Pais) they’re foreclosing on his house, just as a group of armed robbers break in and rob the place. Hanging with his bocce ball-playing friends Albert (Alan Arkin) and Willie (Morgan Freeman) later, Joe tells them what happened. The three agree how difficult things have been for them financially; it’s especially sad for Joe and Albert, who have young granddaughters they hope to spend more time with. Joe gets the bright idea that they also can rob a bank... and there you have it.

Directed by Zach Braff (Garden State) from a screenplay by recent Oscar nominee Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures), Going in Style was supposed to be released a year ago but was unceremoniously delayed. Watching it makes you realize why the studio hid it away.

The movie’s three stars make it far more watchable than it might have been otherwise, but it never feels as if any of them are bringing their Oscar-winning A-game to their characters. Things only get worse in a scene where the three buddies try to see how stealing feels by shoplifting from a local supermarket. The movie hasn’t been very enticing up until this point, but it goes straight down the toilet as the trio make literal fools of themselves with their goofy behavior.

It’s pretty obvious those involved with the production were somehow hoping for the success of something like Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 crime caper Ocean’s Eleven, itself a remake. When the three friends rob the bank, they even wear rubber masks of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin—presumably a nod to that far-better 1960 heist movie, which starred the Rat Pack.

Braff also uses many of the same techniques as Soderbergh’s movie to set up the trio’s elaborate bank heist, including excessive split screens and a poppy score by Rob Simonsen to keep things moving.

As lovely as it is to see a legend like Ann-Margret back on the big screen looking as beautiful as ever, it’s a shame her character—essentially a love interest for Arkin—just isn’t given very much to do. The same can be said about Matt Dillon as the FBI agent trying to solve the initial bank robbery, and young Joey King as Caine’s granddaughter, Annie. But then you have “Saturday Night Live” mainstay Kenan Thompson killing it in a tiny supporting role.

On the flip side, Christopher Lloyd gives such a cringe-worthy performance as a consistently befuddled acquaintance that you wonder if the film’s older target audience might be more offended than amused.

It’s a shame, because there are so many quality actors in this piece. Director Braff simply doesn’t know how to keep his talented cast reined in enough to keep things from turning outlandish.

The very title of the movie is a misnomer: If, God forbid, any of the cast should die with this as their last credit, “going in style” will not be a term used to describe their exit.

Click here for cast and crew information.