Going in Style ★ Now playing
Going in Style, the new “comedy” from “filmmaker” Zach Braff, has a familiar setup: three old friends, played by veteran actors in their golden years, run into trouble and reunite for one last caper. In this case, the actors are Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine. The caper is a bank heist. The jokes are tame (and lame) and the entire film hinges on the accumulated good will these performers have earned over their lifetimes.
If it feels like you've already seen this movie, you have, figuratively and literally. This iteration tells the story of Willie, Joe, and Albert, retired steelworkers in Brooklyn who are trying to get by on the modest pension provided by their former employer. When said employer is bought out by a bank, the pension fund is dissolved, triggering a dilemma for each character. Willie (Freeman) is unable to visit his beloved family. Joe (Caine) is about to be evicted from his home. Albert (Arkin), the orneriest of the bunch, is just generally and perpetually pissed.
So the trio hatches a scheme: They will rob the bank that's responsible for their disappearing pension money, taking only what they're owed and donating the rest to charity. The problem is that none of them are criminals. So they enlist the help of neighborhood hustler Jesus (John Ortiz), who rescues stray pets on the side. The bad guys, you see, are really good guys at heart.
Braff directs his movie like a half-hearted goof on a third-rate facsimile of a misguided satire of the classic heist film. We get the planning sequence, the dry-run sequence, the last-minute story obstacle, the robbery itself, and the subsequent reveal. In between, the characters are given busy work to establish whatever sentimental backstory they've been assigned.
Nobody is having any fun. Freeman and Caine phone in their performances, falling back on natural charisma and a lifetime of old-pro screen acting bits. I don't blame them. There's nothing to work with in this story. Arkin seems a bit more committed; he earns a few laughs.
To quote the late, great Roger Ebert: I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated it. I hated all that wasted talent onscreen. I hated the cornball script, which can't be bothered with delivering actual jokes. I hated the alarmingly amateurish direction, from the camera work to the pacing to the editing.
Most of all, I hated the clear and present contempt that Braff and screenwriter Theodore Melfi have for their audience. This movie is the worst kind of commercial trash, aiming for the squishy and profitable center of PG-13 comedy with maximum demographic coverage. Bad movies can be fun if they're honest efforts. When they're as calculated and condescending as this, it's just a miserable time at the movies.