If the cast was anything to go by, I knew Going in Style was going to be a hell of a film; hopefully keeping viewers chortling the whole way through. I wasn’t disappointed.
Going in Style is a modern remake of a 1979 film by the same name which starred George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg. The 2017 version replaces drama with more comedy and some of the best actors of our time: Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin. The film centres around three characters who turn to a life of crime – Willie (Morgan Freeman), Joe (Michael Caine) and Albert (Alan Arkin) – after they become fed up with the system that’s stealing their jobs, pensions and houses. They enlist the help of some ‘dodgy types’, daring to hit the very bank that’s causing all of their problems. The film is led by its brilliant actors but does not disappoint in other aspects either, the plot and chronology all carefully crafted to keep surprising you when you least expect it.
It’s no surprise that the film succeeds in its light comedy mission with its director being Zach Braff from Scrubs. His acting style – sassy and sarcastic – comes across in the dialogue. The film points out the systems that can and do fail people so devastatingly, drawing on the broad themes of economic unrest that are very relatable at the moment. You can’t help but empathize with the three endearing and hilarious guys on the screen while hating on the cops and security guards who stand in their way.
Going in Style fulfilled expectations, even squeezing tears and gasps from the audience with twists they did not see coming, a hallmark of a well thought out movie. Though it follows a fairly simple plot: three disgruntled old guys rob a bank to take back what they’ve lost, the film’s magic lies in the way it holds the audience’s attention. You naturally assume, due to their blunders and inability to make it back to the getaway car in less than 2 minutes that the new crooks will fail horrifically. Only much later when their alibis are set out in hilarious detail does the viewer become aware of how much work they actually put into the heist.
Although sticking to a light comedic tone, the film does attempt to highlight deeper issues such as Joe losing his house, the three men losing the security of their pensions and Willie facing serious medical issues. These run threads throughout the whole movie without being the main focus, they are catalysts. It appears Braff chose not to focus on these too heavily or narrow them down. However I think this was a smart choice. By showing small emotional moments such as the Skype call to Willie’s granddaughter the depth of what’s at stake is made very clear. We don’t need to see three men collapsing under the weight of everything they’re dealing with because generally this isn’t what happens in life anyway. Instead Braff shows their resilience, and that under a lighthearted exterior, more can be going on. Similarly, keeping the economic issues broad allows the film appeal open to people from all walks of life as the generic issues of money and failing government support generally hit everyone.
I didn’t go into the film expecting a life changing experience but, noting the jokes made in the trailer, I did expect to enjoy myself, and that I did. Zach Braff and writer Theodore Melfi have done well as did the broad cast – from the granddaughters to the romantic interests, oblivious retirees and extreme number of ageist young people. These unlikely bank robbers did not escape justice rather they were the bringers of justice, and good times.