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Review: “Going in Style”

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Heist films are hit or miss, especially when comedic elements are worked into the plot, but take a few Hollywood legends and a bit of on-the-nose motivation and you’ve got yourself a great film right? Well not always. Enter “Going in Style”, a heist comedy film staring some of the most legendary actors of our time that, while funny at times, fails to really stand on its own two feet even if it succeeds at bringing some well needed humor to the big screen in 2017 and a few rather unique thieves to the heist genre.

“Going in Style” is a remake of the 1979 film of the same name and follows three life-long friends who, after their jobs are eliminated and their pensions revoked to pay for their companies expenses, plan a bank robbery to get back what is there’s. Seeing as they are elderly citizens, the trio’s planning and rehearsal for the heist results in a few comedic high jinks and when the day finally comes the three men put all that practice to the test in and attempt at pulling off a miraculous theft. The movie stars Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin as the lead roles with Joey King, Matt Dillon, Ann-Margret, and Christopher Lloyd as primary supporting characters.

Let get some positives out of the way first. Freeman, Caine, and Arkin are a fantastic trio who ooze chemistry on screen as lead characters Willie, Joe, and Albert respectively. No surprise there right? All three own their roles and it really is like watching three old friends live their lives together trying to figure out how to survive when their ways of life and their financial parachutes are ripped away from them. The film also sports an impressive supporting cast with everyone from Christopher Lloyd’s insanely comedic Milton to Joe King’s young brainiac Brooklyn, Joe’s granddaughter, standing out in their own rights in a small cast of what could have very well been throwaway supporting characters to drive the plot. There’s a lot to love about the cast as a whole and while it’s not the most artistic performance by anyone, it’s easy to see the whole crew seemed to have fun on set and it bleeds into the movie.

The film also does a decent job setting up some of the characters’ motivations. The writers gave each of the three elderly men their own back-stories that justify their wanting to rob a bank. Aside from the fact that their pensions have been basically stolen, a motivation I’ll talk more about below, Joe finds himself at risk of losing his home where he and his daughter and granddaughter live, Willie needs a kidney transplant and lives far away from his family due to his financial constraints, and Albert, while initially against the idea, finds a new lease on life when he becomes involved with a new girlfriend. As the three realize their “life” prison sentence if they get caught wouldn’t last too long anyway, they decide to make one final adventure that could help them and their families in the long run. The back-stories help make each character feel real and relatable and while the resulting heist plan might seem ridiculous, it’s easy to understand why they decide to go through with it.

Really, despite it’s great casting and the chemistry between its leads, “Going in Style” is a rather generic and forgettable comedy film. While the movie has some great moments of laughter, they’re few and far between and when the heist finally takes place a few plot holes, such as the timing of the police arrival, stand out and it really is hard to overlook that these are three elderly men who in less than a month came up with a plan to rob a bank. Hell, even Danny Ocean took more planning and time and he had more people.

Also the central motivation is a little too on the nose. The concept of these men losing their pensions and a business outsourcing their work during a buyout and then these men robbing a bank to get what’s theirs is probably the fantasy of every worker-done-wrong in America and while it touches on a powerful, and very real, subject of controversy, it does so in a manner that depends on the viewers emotional connection to such a situation to really draw them in. It’s a theme that’s overplayed, in both reality and cinema, and while the men who are affected by it are unique robbers in their own right, their initial motivation is in itself uninspired and dry.

It almost would have been better for them to want to rob the bank using their own personal roadblocks explained earlier in this write up, however it seems the story writers felt there needed to be a more extreme motivation, one that would justify hitting that particular bank and demonize someone other than the three main leads. While Willie, Joe, and Albert experience a moral dilemma early on, they simply justify it by not taking more than they need and demonizing their company and the bank that is associated with them which comes off a cheap and an easy out for the three friends when they have much more real life issues that could justify such action and create a more relatable moral controversy, even for a comedy film. This actually hurts the film because it takes away from the inner conflict these characters face as they move closer to their plan and almost ignores the fact that what they are planning to do is, in itself, inherently wrong especially for reasons of revenge. While this is a comedy and it’s not meant to be taken very seriously, I still feel like the film as a whole would have been better served from a focus on the deeper motivations of these characters rather than an overplayed revenge scheme for the heist.

While “Going in Style” has it’s flaws I have to give it credit for being a well acted and legitimately funny film, even if the laughs are few and far between. It looks like it was a lot of fun to make and, if approached with the right mindset, it can be an equally fun film to view. While I have issues with its story and screenplay, its characters are still relatable and lovable and the cast is amazingly and amusingly committed. For a generic comedy film this is a pretty good offering and as a heist film it does have enough unique elements to make it worth enjoying, but in the end it’s forgettable at best. “Going in Style” is an enjoyable viewing that could have been so much better.

 

GRADE: 3 stars

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