GOING IN STYLE
By Nathan Evans
‘Going in Style’ is ‘Scrubs’ star Zach Braff’s third directorial feature and the first one the filmmaker didn’t write. I’m guessing the unfair drubbing he received for crowd funding his last film, ‘Wish I Was Here’, was enough to make him hedge his bets on something safe. While the logic is sound, the execution is a different story entirely. On paper ‘Going in Style’ seems like it might be a decent way to kill an afternoon at a matinee showing, but having seen the end result, I can’t even recommend that much. The film is actually a remake of a 1979 comedy of the same name directed by ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ helmer Martin Brest, and starring George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg. While I can’t comment as to the quality of that film, I can say Braff’s remake is a pedestrian exercise in every comedic cinematic cliche you’ve ever seen.
Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin star as our three protagonists. They’re lifelong friends and retirees of a local steel production plant. When the company they’re receiving their pension checks from decides to uproot their business to Vietnam, and cease honoring their pension payments, the trio of friends formulate a plan to rob the bank that’ll be handling the transference of funds that are rightfully theirs.
Braff attempts to utilize the charms of his veteran cast to liven up a script that lacks any sort of edge, does nothing new, and is bereft of any sort of poignant social commentary. Unfortunately, Caine and his cohorts sleepwalk their way through the movie; noticeably flubbing lines on several occasions and generally making it clear that they only showed up for a paycheck. It goes without saying that these three have more charm at twenty percent than your average performer does at one hundred, but when the film at hand lacks any other selling point, even their minuscule efforts can do little to salvage the proceedings.
It doesn’t help matters that Braff’s camera lacks any sort of invention. The film is shot like a t.v. movie: all static, medium shots with no sense of movement or propulsion. When a film’s focus are a trio of octogenarians, and the script itself plods along at a leisurely pace, it’s important there be something at work that holds an audience’s attention. Braff fails to provide that, and as a result, a film that clocks in at a mere hour and thirty-six minutes ends up feeling twice as long.
All of this could’ve been forgiven had there at least been one or two belly laughs buried somewhere in the film’s runtime, but the film falls short on that front too. I can’t remember laughing once throughout the entire thing; for that matter, I can’t even remember laughing during the trailer. There’s just nothing here. While the denouement provides a couple of clever moments as it reveals exactly how the heist was pulled off, and, on fan level, it’s fun watching these three tried and true talents interact, there’s very little that justifies this film’s existence. There are several moments where the film attempts to comment on the evil, unjust tactics utilized by major banks, but even that comes nine years too late, and the film offers nothing new to say about it.
In a desperate attempt for both poignancy and length, the film throws in a couple of subplots that wastes the talents of both British comedian Peter Serafinowicz and golden age Hollywood starlet Ann-Margret. Serafinowicz portrays Caine’s estranged son-in-law/dead beat father to Caine’s filmic granddaughter: ‘Wish I Was Here’ alum, Joey King. He appears in the film, by my count, exactly three times, yet we’re supposed to care about his growth arc as he reconnects with his daughter. Margret fares no better as a sexually aggressive cougar with her eyes on Arkin’s lovable curmudgeon. She’s only present to serve in a handful of scenes that fall flat comedically and as a convenient alibi for Arkin when the film comes to a head.
With its last few plodding moments, ‘Going in Style’ goes out of its way to force in a joke where the lead up to the punchline involves the audience believing that one of its beloved protagonists is dead. If that doesn’t sound hilarious to you, you’re not wrong. The moment I’m referring to is indicative of the film itself with one caveat: it’s misguided, it isn’t funny, yet it possess a willingness to take a chance on a tone the rest of the film is too timid to explore.
‘Going in Style’ is a dull, unremarkable studio release that has no reason to exist. There are worse ways to waste one’s time than spending it watching the exploits of the film’s charming trio of actors, but there are many, many better ways too. I’d have been more engaged had the film been actively awful, but as it stands, it’s really nothing more than ameaningless series of sounds and images that occupy an hour and thirty-six minutes of time. As the film is intent on reminding us with its every stab at humor, you’re going to get old and die one day: it’s better you don’t waste your precious time with a film like this.
RATING: 1 OUT OF 5
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