The Critic's Corner
April 17-23, 2017
By David Laprad
It would be easy to dismiss “Going in Style” as a cinematic trifle. Others have. Common complaints are that it’s light on laughs and plays it safe.
I think it has just enough laughs to earn a passing grade.
One area in which “Going in Style” excels is its cast. The films stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Larkin as three men – Joe, Willie and Albert, respectively – who are well into their golden years.
While none of these gents are rich after decades of working for a manufacturing concern, they have their pensions, and that’s enough to keep their chins above the water.
Then life comes along and gives each of them a swift kick in their gentrified sacks: the company that had employed them for more than 40 years had frozen their pensions and was packing for Vietnam.
That’s gotta hurt. But it’s not the only difficulty these old timers are facing. Joe’s mortgage has tripled due to the deceitful practices of his bank and he’s going to lose his house; Willie’s kidneys are failing and he’s low on the donor list; and Albert is just tired of the fight and ready to turn toes up.
While “Going in Style” is a comedy, it plays these difficulties straight, and the film is better for it. With each man facing disaster, it’s going to take a miracle to keep them afloat.
Or a desperate move. One day, while Joe is at his bank, three thieves rob the place and make off with over a million dollars. This gets him thinking: if a few thugs can pull off a heist, why couldn’t he and his friends?
“Going in Style” works as well as it does because of its cast. Although the characters Caine, Freeman and Larkin play each have a name, they’re essentially starring as Caine, Freeman and Larkin, with each actor bringing his well-established persona to the screen.
Maybe that’s why the casting succeeds – the filmmakers found the right ingredients for the right kind of chemistry. I liked these guys, individually and together.
“Going in Style” has just the right pace, too. It doesn’t rush anything, nor does it linger anywhere too long. As the three men convince themselves they can pull off a heist, plan it and then set off to do it, it moves along at just the right clip.
The film also offers just enough laughs and heart.
Maybe I didn’t laugh nonstop, but I chuckled often and laughed out loud more than a few times. A scene in which the trio tests their mettle by shoplifting canned hams and a massive pork loin at a neighborhood grocery store was too screwball for my tastes, but it did have a lady in the audience in stitches.
I liked the gags and one-liners that rose naturally out of the men’s circumstances, e.g. when a thug asks Joe if he’s “five-oh” and he responds, “We’re more like eight-oh.”
“Going in Style” also plucks on a few heartstrings along the way. Only a cynic would scoff at these scenes, which show how much these men mean to each other after being lifelong pals. When the film was over, I didn’t want to say goodbye.
Does “Going in Style” play it safe? Absolutely. Although I like how the heist was staged – we see the robbery but not how the men pulled it off until the FBI investigation goes into full swing – the film has no sense of jeopardy and breezes past the actual dangers of robbing a bank.
But when you balance this criticism against everything else, “Going in Style” does just enough right to qualify as a good time at the movies.
There is one other area in which “Going in Style” excels: its soundtrack. The composer could have played it safe, too, but came up with at least a couple of killer tunes. I’m tempted to see if the soundtrack is available on iTunes.
“Going in Style” was likely called “Going Out in Style” until the studio nixed the “Out.” (I’m speculating.) So, while the film could have taken more chances, it hits a certain sweet spot that makes it worth watching. Just don’t get any crazy ideas; robbing a bank is not that easy.
Three stars out of four. Rated PG-13 for drug content, language and suggestive material.
David Laprad is the assistant editor of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.