Film Review: Going In Style (USA, 2017) Doesn’t Quite Land, Even If It Looks Good

In some ways, it feels like Zach Braff’s involvement with Going In Style is the most interesting thing about it. Braff, now almost a decade after his tenure on Scrubs, hasn’t exactly had a perfect hit rate on the big screen. It’s not that he’s not an untalented filmmaker, it’s just his previous movies have this pretentiousness and overwhelming naivete to them that really hinders them.

It’s refreshing then that Going in Style breaks from his previous work in a pretty big way. The film has some of the same bright charm and film school-style of character building to it but, with Braff kept behind the camera (and the scripting duties handed to Hidden Figures’ Theodore Melfi), it feels remarkably different to his previous work- even if it’s still ends up forgettable on the whole. It’s not a particularly outstanding film but it’s not exactly egregiously awful either.

A remake of the 1979 original film, Going in Style is a small-time caper about three elderly friends who band together to pull off a bank heist after their pension fund runs dry. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin make for a perfectly cranky trio here.

Though Caine’s character ends up feeling like a de facto-lead, Going in Style is still very much an ensemble film. Each of the three adds their own quirks and emotional arc to the dramatic melting pot and they bounce off each other with a reasonable degree of authenticity.

Melfi’s script really feels like the weak link here. While each of the three leads are initially introduced as relatable archetypes, the writing really fails to dig in and find much beyond that. Caine, Freeman and Arkin do bring some charisma and personality to their roles. However, the script plays things a little too safe and rarely lets them get away with much else.

Still, it helps that they’re given some decent guest stars to play with. The film pokes a lot of fun at Matt Dillion stone-cold FBI agent. Meanwhile, SNL’s Kenan Thompson and Christopher Lloyd leverage their talents to some of the film’s funniest moments – though a lot of these feel like they come from a place of improvisation and comedic delivery than the Melfi’s script.

For the most part, Going in Style manages to earn a passing grade on its jokes but I’ll be the first to admit I quickly tired of the relentless supply of “old people jokes” at the script’s disposal. There’s nothing particularly offensive here but, at the same time, I struggle to think of anything that stuck with me beyond the credits.

In contrast, the film manages to hold up best on a stylistic level. The direction bounces things along with the waltz of the film’s soundtrack. Like a lot of things in the film, it all feels vaguely familiar but not entirely unwelcome. Like Braff’s previous efforts, things are kept pretty lighthearted and earnest but (refreshingly) less annoyingly so.

While the movie itself is a fun, if forgettable, caper, it feels like the biggest thing to come out of Going In Style is the evidence that Braff has matured as a filmmaker enough to step back from script. Even though it feels like his least ‘Braff’ movie to date, on a technical and production level, Going in Style it might be his most consistently solid.

Unlike Garden State and Wish I Was Here, the things that Braff does here with direction, music and cinematography aren’t lost beneath the shadow of his own heavy-handed style of writing. Instead, they’re obfuscated by someone else’s.

Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Going in Style releases in Australian cinemas on the 20th of April.