In "Going in Style," Morgan Freeman smokes a joint, gets stoned out of his gourd and plays with puppies while giggling. Sometimes that's really all we need from our movies: A safe and entertaining 90 minutes away from the real world, with recognizable celebrities making us smile. While "Going in Style" isn't by any stretch of the imagination a memorable motion picture, it's still a perfectly affable and comforting way to spend an hour and a half smiling.
Michael Caine plays Joe, a pensioner who's losing his home to the bank due to ridiculously high interest rates on a mortgage, which tripled overnight. While he's at the bank, he witnesses an armed robbery that gives him an idea. A few days later, the company where Joe and his best friends Willie and Albert (a perfectly cast Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin) used to work is bought out and the three of them lose their pensions. Luckily, Joe just witnessed the perfect way to rob a bank.
Director Zach Braff is probably most well known for playing J.D. on "Scrubs," but is also the writer/director/star of the indie quirk-fests "Garden State" and "Wish I Was Here." He's an interesting choice to direct "Going in Style," because his trademark flourishes are absent here. Braff does a good job keeping everything moving quickly, but there's nothing personal on display. In fact, the film is so colorful and briskly paced, it seems Braff is auditioning to make the next Marvel movie more than making something meaningful for himself.
This is actually a remake of a heist movie of the same name from 1979, directed by Martin ("Midnight Run") Brest and starring George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg. The original was much darker, with the bank robbery taking up only the beginning of the film and the final two acts focusing on the very serious consequences of their actions.
It's really fascinating to look at the times these two movies were made in and how different they are because of it. The modern "Going in Style" is light as air and even though we care about all three old fellas, we're never worried for their safety. Audiences in 2017 are flocking to movies that are heartwarming or escapist, not dark and depressing. If the film was made now with the original's ending, people would hate it or at the very least it wouldn't be a financial success.
This version of "Going in Style" is a hug from your grandpa. It truly is the cinematic equivalent of a stoned Morgan Freeman playing with puppies—nothing more and nothing less. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's a good movie, but it's not really a bad one, either.
Going in Style
Dir. Zach Braff
Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX, Sisters Movie House, Redmond Cinema.