Directed by Zach Braff Starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret, Matt Dillon, John Ortiz
Film Review by Kieran Freemantle
Bankers and multi-national corporations are easy targets for criticism and are the targets in the Robin Hood heist-comedy film Going In Style: a remake of 1979 film of the same name. Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Albert (Alan Arkin) are three retired steel workers and friends who are put into dire financial straits after their pension fund is dissolved when their former employer is bought out. Frustrated and desperate the three decide to rob the bank running the liquidation of the fund. Going In Style's winning feature is its main trio. Caine, Freeman and Arkin are terrific actors and their chemistry is what carries the film - even if it's a stretch to believe that the very Cockney Michael Caine would have been a steel worker in America: his granddaughter (Joey King) even makes a joke about his English background. The three together do produce some chuckles with Freeman getting the best lines. Arkin is able to play up his cranky personality, being the more reluctant member of the group. Going In Style also had some major talent working behind the camera. Scrubs star Zach Braff directed and Theodore Melfi - the writer/director of Hidden Figures wrote the screenplay. Braff has had success as a director of indie films and Going With Style is his most mainstream effort as a filmmaker and it shows. Going In Style is a comedy that plays it so safe that it has to cut the word 'motherfucker' from a rap song after the trio rob a grocery store and thinks that a forgetful and confused old man played by Christopher Lloyd (because Alzheimer's disease is funny apparently) and an old lady saying the F-word is enough to constitute a joke. Melfi's screenplay is structurally sound - it ties up all its loose ends and a solid through-line regarding its themes - yet for a film that was marketed as a comedy it's not particularly funny. The best comedic set piece is a chase sequence after the trio's practice robbery does not go so well. Going In Style is at its most inventive when showing men preparing the bank job with their criminal consultant - Jesus (John Ortiz): it was a high energy montage as they do their run through and getting all the equipment they need; Braff uses his box of visual tricks, using animated drawings of the bank and super-imposed a timer for their dry runs. Melfi and Braff clearly followed the example of other heist films like the Ocean's franchise when showing how the trio covered their tracks in flashbacks. Going In Style had a noble intent with its themes regarding the financial crisis - the resentment towards the big banks and businesses and the 99% vs. the 1% - like shooting fish in a barrel. People can easily resonant with the fear that their hard earned pension can be taken away – similar to what happened to BHS workers as well looking at the mis-selling of financial products - even if it was done in the most obnoxious way possible: using Josh Pais as a thinly veiled straw man who was given the most unbearable personality. The movie also taps into themes about the elderly being marginalised, gentrification of working-class neighbourhoods (the film is set in the Williamsburg area of New York) and outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to developing nations - issues that affected people who voted for Donald Trump and taps into the mood of disenfranchisement that is happening around the Western world. Going In Style is boosted by the star power of its three leads and their natural chemistry together - and any film featuring a little pug puppy can't be all bad. The comedy on offer is inoffensive, yet weak and the film as a whole is mostly forgettable.