The American comedian Chris Rock once said that joke is only funny if people understand the premise. I’d like to think that this logic also identifies with comedy film and this modern reboot of the Martin Brest 1979 comedy has the very simple premise of three old men looking to rob a bank. Director Zach Braff introduces us to a comedy that seems like it was produced to fill in the gaps at cinemas, I certainly didn’t walk in expecting much, yet now as I’m writing this review, I positively enjoyed Going in Style more than I thought I would.
What surprised me the most is with such a simple premise comes an incredible screenplay. Writer Theodore Melfi has come out of dark ever since Hidden Figures and surprised us with scripts that take things in their own stride, not rushed and not under-performed. One element to the incredible screenplay is a quite surprisingly well fleshed out characters in a comedy that seemed to be all about he laughs. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin’s characters all have individual struggles that lead them to the decision to rob a bank but also have another motivation that brings the three together and in doing so makes their unity as old friends even stronger, it quite moving to witness this.
Also, the performances given by Caine, Freeman and Arkin are very on point. These are three actors who have been taking part in Hollywood’s game for decades, and what strikes as fascinating and respectful is the easiness of their character’s portrayal and it shows in the film. Because of their performances when all three are in a scene together, the chemistry between the three is as clear as day. There characters may have been friends for ages but when watching Going in Style, it feels as if the three actors have also been friends for ages, even if they haven’t collaborated on many projects (except for Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman). Another big name is Christopher Lloyd of Back to the Future fame who I never expect could be this funny who sells his role as someone with Alzheimer’s.
The films sense of comedy is derived from the fact that these are three old men. Whenever there is a comedy scene with old actors is always leave you with a smile on your face and Going in Style is no exception. When you see two older people in real life laughing and joking around, there something about that interaction that makes you feel warm, possibly because the two in question are almost at the end of the road and them laughing about death (much like the three do in Going in Style) relaxes you and makes you say, “I want to be able to be that happy when I’m older”. Director Zach Braff does exceptionally well in channelling that same emotional response out of his audience.
However, like every film ever, where there’s a positive there is always a negative and unfortunately most of Going in Style’s negative are derived from what makes it stand out amongst other comedies we’ve had this early in the year. Firstly, while the screenplay is one to marvel at, very often you will see certain story making elements such as the set-up scene for the heist that have been used in films for decades.
The editing and cinematography choices were sometimes confusing to say the least, especially since the editing of this film couldn’t decides what style of editing to choose from. One example is a scene where the characters are talking over the phone and it’s shown in a split screen edit which clashes violently with the style of editing that we got used to in the scenes following it.
These three characters also have relationships with their families that also play a pivotal role in their motivations, yet during the midway point of the film, it seems that their relationship with their family have been forgotten about and when they eventually get answered it only lasts one scene with Michael Caine’s character. Personally, I would have liked to have seen more on how their planning of this heist would also affect their time with their respected families, that way the film had the potential to put strain and doubt into the heads of the characters and make themselves question if they really want to go through with this heist
At the end of the day, Going in Style is not a film that can be over analysed, but a charming film for you to go into a cinema and forget about any problems you have for an hour or two. If that is the criteria that must be followed then I can safely say that Going in Style will have you leaving feeling entertained. What Zach Braff has ultimately ended up with is a film to not be taken seriously, if audiences realise this, their enjoyment will increase massively.