Grade: B-/C+
Entire family: No
2017, 96 min., Color
Crime comedy
Rated PG-13 for drug content, language, and some suggestive material
Warner Bros.
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1 widescreen
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Bonus features: C (director’s commentary)
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD
Trailer
Amazon link

Money-grubbing moneylenders are evil—at least in literature and Hollywood. Whether it was Tom Joad and his fellow Okies trying to start a new life in California after banks foreclosed on them, George Bailey fighting to keep Mr. Potter from buying up the whole town and gouging tenants, or even Bonnie and Clyde becoming bank-robbing folk heroes, any act of resistance has been seen as an act of heroism.

The financial crisis of 2007-08—triggered by banks actively selling subprime mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them—only solidified the notion that banks are the con men, the bad guys. Add the corporate shipping of jobs overseas and the dismantling of pensions that workers paid into but lost, and the idea of the evil moneygrubbers grows even larger.

So how can you possibly go wrong when you cast beloved veterans Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin as 70-somethings who, victimized by the banks and their employer, decide to rob a bank? I mean, the bank and their employer cheated them, so what do they have to lose? If they get caught, they get “three squares” and better health care than they now have, and if they succeed they avoid financial ruin.

Close your eyes and picture the first-act set-up where we’ll get to know each of them, follow their routines, and come to understand what makes them decide that Going in Style is preferable to remaining law-abiding citizens.

Have you got an image of the scenes that you’d see, the situations that would be illustrated?

Good. Because then I don’t have to tell you about the first part of this film. The setup is as generic as can be, and paced so leisurely that it feels like a yawner. Their situations are clichéd, with one about to lose his house (and his daughter and granddaughter are living with him, so they too would be out on the streets), one who needs a kidney transplant and is told he doesn’t have much time left, and a third a family-less fellow who is hit-on by an elderly grocery-store employee (Ann-Margaret). There are no surprises and very few delights in the first third of the film. It’s only when they seek out a “low life” to get advice on how to rob a bank that the interest picks up, and by the third act things are rolling so well that you wish the film had started at that point.

I’m sure that director Zach Braff (he of Scrubs fame) thought it was hilarious that the men, having decided to rob a bank, do what amounts to a trial run on a local grocery store. But it’s just not that funny—even as two of them make their escape on a stolen mechanized grocery cart. That scene, like the rest of them in the first half of the film, feels like a lost opportunity—something that could have and should have been funnier.

Still, the second half is entertaining enough, the three stars and Ann-Margaret are endearing, and the situation is one that many Americans can identify with, no matter what political party they support. Is Going in Style fluff? Certainly. You don’t have old guys unable to get out of a chair somehow getting into shape to rob a bank in under two minutes, no matter how long they train, and Matt Dillon’s role as an FBI agent is played to the same comic hilt as the teachers on a Disney Channel show. But once this film gets rolling, I’ll say this much: you do hope they get away with it.

Language: Lesser swearwords and musical “motherf****er” lyrics that are clipped so you don’t hear the full obscenity
Sex: An elderly couple is shown in bed several times covered by sheets, with the implication that they’ve had sex; later the man says they had sex three times in the a.m.
Violence: Guns are fired as warning shots and people are made to get on the ground; there is a mild gunfight between the heroes and a bank employee
Adult situations: Two of the old men smoke weed and there are jars of marijuana on display in one scene
Takeaway: When three stars have charisma, even a rickety vehicle like this one is enough for them to take viewers on a fun ride

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