Going In Style (2017)
Director: Zach Braff
Screenwriter: Theodore Melfi
Starring: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret, Matt Dillon, Joey King, Christopher Lloyd, John Ortiz, Peter Serafinowicz
Zach Braff has teamed Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin for OAP heist movie Going In Style (2017), a film that’s a lot less Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and a lot more The Heist (2015), though remains not without its merits.
Theodore Melfi’s screenplay adaptation of Edward Cannon’s 1979 story originally adapted to the screen by Martin Brest (Going In Style – 1979), tells the tale of three elderly men who take drastic action upon losing access to their pensions and being threatened with much worse. It is Caine’s Joe with whom the idea to rob the bank originates – a somewhat meta choice of casting given that one of the actor’s most iconic roles was in famed heist movie The Italian Job (1969) whereby he played the instigator and leader of a British heist team – when he is embroiled in an armed robbery of his local branch in the film’s opening moments.
It is Michael Caine’s character of whom the film centres around and his journey we are most welcomed to witness, a task the 84 year old actor manages to successfully bring the weight of his world class back catalogue of work to while remaining far removed from putting in one of his better performances. The same can be said of the performances of his co-stars Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin, though it is the threesome’s chemistry as a self-consciously ageing group of “could-of-been” men that brings the film much of its wit and charm, truly its most defining features.
In many ways Going In Style plays a lot like 2013 comedy Last Vegas, also starring Morgan Freeman, in that it consciously works at a slower (dare I suggest “aged”) pace while remaining focused on its comedy and star power as a means of establishing empathy for its characters’ under-represented age group. Much like the 2013 film, Going In Style fills the screen with recognisable faces and comedy relief to better reinforce this, with Christopher Lloyd’s Alzheimer’s riddled side character being presented in a funny yet not disrespectful manner and Ann-Margret being on hand to portray the increasingly popular “sexually active Grandma” archetype, each of whom helped to give a small dose of nostalgia that made their characters noteworthy in this regard.
Visually, Braff offered very little in terms of creative flair in comparison to the work he displayed on passion projects Garden State (2004) and Wish I Was Here (2014), and presented the developments of the plot and the characters while being almost invisible in his role. This conscious absence to the storytelling helps to gift large portions of the film a real sense of honesty but offers very little in terms of contributions to the comedic or thrilling aspects of the picture, upon which a great deal of the film rests. Furthermore, the decision to edit together otherwise disconnected segments of the story via cut-shots of the New York skyline played more like a less meaningful version of the intrusive transition cards played before and after commercial breaks during TV detective dramas like ‘Law & Order’ than anything remotely cinematic.
Unfortunately for Braff and Going In Style, this was not the most intrusive element of the film however, as the picture’s musical accompaniment was at best distracting. Again playing out like some sort of skewed and unnecessary reference to TV cop dramas, Rob Simonsen’s contribution to the sound of the picture was perhaps the most disappointing feature as it was uninviting and often ghastly in its appeal. The musician, who had previously worked to an impressive level on the likes of Life of Pi (2012), Foxcatcher (2014) and even Braff’s previous picture Wish I Was Here (2014), didn’t seem close to hitting such heights at any stage during this movie and did little to work in opposition to the claim of Braff “painting by the numbers”. The quality of Simonsen’s work was of stark contrast to the rest of Braff’s feature-length productions as each of the director’s passion project feature-lengths have contained sensational musical accompaniment, with Garden State (2004) even winning awards for its use of its soundtrack.
Combining each of these elements with the glossy look of the movie’s picture (against all genre tropes) that works as a modern day signifier as to the low level of commitment the studio had to producing anything close to art, and the semi-committed approach the studios had to promoting the film, it seems clear that MGM and New Line Cinema set out to make nothing more than the paint-by-numbers picture this eventually became, though the effect it will have on Zach Braff’s once burgeoning career remains to be seen. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin will, of course, take away much of the merit of the movie’s success for their above average deliveries and collective chemistry but, much like the aforementioned Last Vegas, Going In Style is an ultimately disposable movie.