GOING IN STYLE Stumbles Over Its Refusal To Pick A Genre

GOING IN STYLE Stumbles Over Its Refusal To Pick A Genre
Going In Style (2017) - source: Warner Brothers Pictures

Going in Style is like The Expendables meets Hell or High Water meets Dirty Grandpa. Actually, I might have oversold things – that sounds pretty great. Yet, instead of finding any kind of identity, Going in Style, from director Zach Braff,  throws elements from all three of these movies into one mish-mash of a dramedy, undermining itself every step of the way. It’s not especially bad, it’s just that it’s so incohesive that it’s not especially… anything.

What Does Going in Style Do Right?

Going In Style’s biggest strength is its casting. I’m not saying that to rag on the movie – having Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin all in the same movie together is nothing to sneeze at. Even though they all mail it in, and even though the script is something to sneeze at, Going In Style is still a pretty watchable movie.

GOING IN STYLE Stumbles Over Its Refusal To Pick A Genre
source: Warner Bros. Pictures

That’s certainly a testament to the appeal of these actors. Seriously, what do we need to pay these guys to live-stream their commentary of The Bachelorette? Scenes like this, where our three leads are all talking together, are the most charming of the movie – they’re just too few and far between.

And that’s the crux of the problem: if you’re going to write a script that depends on the audience knowing and respecting these classic actors, then at least let these actors interact with each other! The novelty here is that we get to watch Batman’s butler, God, and whatever Alan Arkin is most known for, all play off of each other – and we don’t get nearly enough of it. They’re too often tied up in their own flat, boring plot development (I’ll get to that).

But I’m still supposed to be talking about what the movie did right. To its credit, Going in Style mostly stays away from the clichéd old people jokes about Viagra and passing gas. It also has just enough kooky side characters to stay interesting, as well as a few legitimately fun scenes (mostly the ones about the bank robbing – you know, the actual plot of the movie).

GOING IN STYLE Stumbles Over Its Refusal To Pick A Genre
source: Warner Bros. Pictures

The good parts of the movie end up highlighting why Going in Style’s mediocrity is so disappointing: it hit all the right notes, it just doesn’t hit them nearly often enough. Somewhere between casting its main characters and rolling the cameras, the writers forgot that they had Freeman, Caine, and Arkin signed on for a fun bank robbing comedy – ending up with a less fun, tonally inconsistent movie with just a little bank robbing at the beginning and the end.

What Does Going in Style Do Wrong?

Going in Style doesn’t really know what it is. It has a lot of themes that could potentially resonate with a lot of people (especially with an older audience), but we never care about them very much. It scatters these otherwise compelling ideas between other scenes that are overly goofy and inconsequential. There’s nothing wrong with being a mostly silly movie – it’s just that adding in some really serious scenes about house foreclosures and kidney failures make the whole experience really jarring. The audience can never really feel any particular emotion because we never know when the tone is going to do a complete 180.

In that same vein, Going in Style spends too much time on each character’s individual backstory. It’s like the movie knows it has gold – in the form of seeing all three of our leads act in the same scenes together – and withholds it from us for the majority of the plot. We’re stuck watching Freeman dealing with his possibly terminal illness, or Caine acting as a stand-in father to his granddaughter, or the Arkin having a bizarre affair with his music student’s grandmother. Like I said, disjointed and tonally inconsistent.

This is a movie about comically inept old guys robbing banks, not Once Upon a Time in America. In other words, if we’re watching this movie, we’re here to see these timeless actors robbing banks together. Just give us any old motivations – as quickly as possible – and we’ll buy it (of course, I’d be singing a different tune if the character development was done with any conviction or nuance… but it wasn’t, so I’m not).

GOING IN STYLE Stumbles Over Its Refusal To Pick A Genre
source: Warner Bros. Pictures

All of this could have been forgiven if the movie was legitimately funny. But it falls back on lazy visual gags and  not much else. It’s really light on comedy, which I guess is a symptom of shoehorning in too many side plots. For a movie that’s trying to be too many things at once, it wasn’t nearly clever enough to be a good comedy OR a good heist movie – let alone both.

Conclusion

Going in Style is one of those low risk, low reward movies, and everyone involved knows it. In that sense, it does a perfectly serviceable job of giving us a fairly amusing 90 minutes – but only because the audience adores its lead actors. Going in Style could have at least been more enjoyable if it had fully embraced its goofiness, or even if it evolved into a clever heist movie. Instead, it stumbled along somewhere in between wasting its timeless cast on a forgettable film.

Did you like Going in Style more than I did? What could have made this movie better? Let us know in the comments!

Going in Style was released in the US and the UK on April 7, 2017. For a full list of release dates, see here.

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Clint is a desk jockey by day, movie critic by night. He has learned more from movies than he has from real life.
Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.