Going in Style

by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday April 7, 2017

Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine star in 'Going in Style'
Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine star in 'Going in Style'  

"Going in Style" is a film that understands the powerful glee that can be created through humorous imagery. In one of the movie's funniest sequences, Joe (Michael Caine) and Willie (Morgan Freeman) are polishing their shoplifting skills by hitting a local grocery store. They stuff their clothes with a myriad of items, with Willie even managing to cram an entire pork loin into his pants. A security guard notices and begins to follow Joe and Willie as they scurry out of the store, their clothes bulging absurdly and with struts expectedly slow for their age. They make a run for it by stealing an old woman's motorized grocery cart, Joe behind the wheel and Willie uncomfortably perched in the front basket.

This movie gets it. That's a hilarious image to behold. Also funny is the way that third friend, Albert (Alan Arkin), runs around the store in a panic while all this is happening. "Going in Style" is chock-full of moments like this. The film unexpectedly tickled all my slapstick and screwball sensibilities with a deft comprehension of how these tricky beats work, joining the ranks of great modern examples of the genre like George Clooney's "Leatherheads" and numerous works by the Coen Brothers ("Raising Arizona," "Intolerable Cruelty," "Hail, Caesar!"). The movie's amusing situations are amplified in their silliness, tossing the caution of subtlety to the wind and firing on all cylinders of comicality.

The film follows Joe, Willie and Albert as they decide to rob a bank in order to live comfortably after their pensions are stolen by a company they've worked decades for. A remake of the 1979 film of the same name, which starred George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg, "Going in Style" tackles a more contemporary justification for the plot at hand-those evil big banks and everyone deserving a "piece of the pie." With a premise like that, I wouldn't have been surprised if Bernie Sanders ended up being the fourth member of this geriatric gang.

But, in addition to being quite funny, "Going in Style" has a big heart worn directly on its sleeve. These characters are extremely easy to care about, even as their planning the specifics of a significant crime. With a slick script from Theodore Melfi ("Hidden Figures"), the film moves at a fantastic pace while balancing the gags, the sentiment and the mechanics of the central plot with ease. Near the end, however, there are certainly some wheels spinning. At 96 minutes, the film feels stretched from what would have been an excellent 85-minute feature, but for the most part the movie's scenes never feel like wasted throwaways.

It also helps that Caine, Freeman and Arkin seem to be having a blast. Christopher Lloyd turns in an excellent supporting performance as well, the exaggerated silliness of his character delivering a gut-busting chuckle nearly every time he's on screen.

Most surprising, however, is the film's director, Zach Braff, who has seemed to find a genre that genuinely works for him. After struggling to find his directorial footing with indie Sundance films like "Garden State" and "Wish I Was Here," the filmmaker makes the most out of what screwball can accomplish. With inspired and enjoyable flairs of editing, music cues, camera work and split screen, plus a firm command for filling his frames with fundamental folly, perhaps Braff has found his forte. If his next movie has an image as funny as Morgan Freeman running with a pork loin in his pants, I'm on board.