Get ready for the grandfather of all heist films. Played by Freeman, Caine, and Arkin, lifelong buddies Willie, Joe and Al, decide to buck retirement and step off the straight-and-narrow for the first time in their lives when their pension fund becomes a corporate casualty. Desperate to pay the bills and come through for their loved ones, the three risk it all by embarking on a daring bid to knock off the very bank that absconded with their money.
I didn't have a great deal of hope heading into Going in Style. How many times now have we seen movies that take aging actors (often, as the three male leads are in this movie, Oscar winners) and put them in the middle of dumb slapstick comedies that go nowhere?
Now, I'm not going to say that Going in Style breaks that mold in a huge, significant way, but at least the leads here – Oscar winners Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin – don't phone it in, and thanks to some competent direction from Zach Braff, this mostly lighthearted comedy fares better than others in its genre.
Viewers are first introduced to aging Joe Harding (Caine) as he pays a visit to his bank, wondering about the notice he just got in the mail that his monthly mortgage payments are going up beyond his ability to pay. While he's arguing with the unsympathetic bank manager (played by Josh Pais), a bank robbery takes place, with the criminals getting in and out of the bank with lots of money and no one shot or injured. This, of course, plants a seed in Joe's mind that will play out later in the movie.
Joe is best friends with Willie Davis (Freeman) and Al Garner (Arkin), both of whom worked with him at a company that the men now learn is moving out of the country and taking their pension payments with it. Apparently, their former employer will no longer be legally obligated to make the payments if they move overseas, leaving Joe, Willie, and Al now unable to live off of their only remaining income: their measly Social Security checks. This is the point in the movie where Joe's idea about robbing a bank springs to mind, theorizing that even if the three of them are caught, prison will provide a roof over their heads and three meals a day. It takes some coaxing, but eventually Willie and Al get on board with Joe's idea.
In order to "train" for their heist, the trio first see if they can steal some food from a local supermarket and, naturally, the plan goes horribly wrong. Luckily, the supermarket manager (Keenan Thompson, in a hilarious and all-too-brief role), doesn't press charges, allowing Joe and his pals to continue to plan for the bank robbery. They enlist the aid of a local, slightly shady character named Jesus (John Ortiz), who agrees to help train them for the robbery for a cut of the money. Other notable actors who populate this story include Matt Dillion as an FBI Agent, Christopher Lloyd as one of the members of our trio's local senior citizen group, and film legend Ann-Margret as a gal who has eyes for Al.
The climactic bank robbery is perhaps the weakest part of the film - it's not nearly as fun or as funny as it could have been/should be, leaving the earlier supermarket heist in the movie as Going in Style's strongest scene(s). That's a shame, since the story generates a lot of positive build-up to this point, but at least the story also doesn't end right after the robbery, as there's still the question of if our main characters will get away with it all.
I didn't know until after I watched Going in Style that it's actually a remake of a 1979 film starring George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg (and directed by Martin Brest). Having never seen that version, I can't make comparisons, but from what I've read about that movie (which was much better reviewed/praised), the trio there robbed their bank out of simple boredom. That worked as a plot in the 70s, but thankfully our lead characters here have a real economic reason, lest the audience see them as "bad guys". While this movie doesn't deliver nearly as many laugh-out-loud moments as one might hope, it does have some heart at the center of things, making it worth at least one viewing.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Going in Style arrives on home video in this Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack. The 50GB Blu-ray and dual-layer DVD are housed inside an eco-friendly Elite keepcase along with an insert containing the code for a digital copy of the movie. A slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase slides overtop. Both the DVD and Blu-ray are front-loaded with a trailer for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The Blu-ray also includes a promotional ad for Ultra HD from Warner Bros., while the DVD contains trailers for Kong: Skull Island, Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Collateral Beauty, and American Wrestler: The Wizard. The main menu is the typical Warners' design, with a still of the box cover image and menu selections horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
Going in Style was shot digitally on the Arri Alexa XT Plus and is presented here in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. While I did pick up on some mild aliasing in the background here and there, for the most part this is a nicely detailed transfer that only really suffers during some of the indoor sequences (the opening bank scene is actually one of the most drab-looking sequences). Later scenes, such as when our heroes test their heist skills at a local supermarket and (even moreso) during a carnival sequence towards the end of the movie, burst with a stunning array of color and sharpness that really looks great in 1080p.
Facial features, for better or worse, are also well-rendered, and the photography isn't shy about showing every crease and wrinkle on the actors' faces. Black levels don't quite make it to "inky", but they're good enough that details don't get lost in the shadows. Noise is kept to a minimum and is never really an issue. Overall, another well-done transfer from the folks at Warners.
The featured audio is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that – while not quite immersive – does a pretty good job with the overall mix. Much of this movie consists of our three leads talking to one another, but there's also some action to be had here and there, and if the track here is not quite up to the level of a Vin Diesel pic, there's still some use of ambient noises as well as musical soundtrack enhancement that is noticeable.
While the dynamic range here doesn't test the limits of one's audio setup, and while LFE use is pretty much non-existent, the presentation is still crisp, clear, and well-rendered overall. The track comes to life the most when our leads are out in the city streets or – most notably – during a carnival scene that takes place shortly before the climatic bank heist where various background noises are put into the mix.
In addition to the 5.1 lossless track, 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are also available in French, Spanish (Latin), and Portuguese. A Dolby Digital 5.1 English Descriptive Audio track is also available. Subtitles are an option in English SDH, French, Spanish (Latin), and Portuguese.
Commentary with Zach Braff – The director provides an informative – albeit somewhat "dry" at times – commentary track about the making of the movie. As is common with a lot of these types of solo tracks, Braff has a lot of great things to say about his movie and those he worked with, but very little in terms of self-criticism or things he wishes he'd have done differently. It's a middling track, worth one listen, but unlikely one you'll ever go back to a second time.
Going in Style isn't going to win any Oscars (despite the presence of three former winners in its cast), but given how many bad movies we've seen where aging stars team up for a more or less "mindless" comedy, things here could have been much worse. Thanks to the charm of Caine, Freeman, and Arkin and competent direction from Zach Braff, this one is Worth a Look.