Going in Style
Sometimes things don't go as planned. Like, say, Joe, Albert and Willie's retirement.
The three friends gave a lifetime of labor to Wechsler Steel Company. And while their retirement is anything but posh, it's not too bad, either. They enjoy a mean game of bocce, an occasional donut and spending evenings with their fellow retired brethren at the Hudson Lodge.
Willie's got a daughter and granddaughter in another state, but kidney dialysis treatments (which he's never told his buddies about) keep him from traveling to see them. Meanwhile, Joe's daughter and granddaughter, Rachel and Brooklyn, live with him and are the light of his life. And Albert? Despite being a confirmed curmudgeon with a temperament just this side of an elderly snapping turtle, somehow he's caught the eye of a grocery store clerk named Annie who's determined to rope him into a relationship.
Yes, it's all reasonably OK for these three gents … until the day they find out that Wechsler Steel is no more. And neither are their pensions. Suddenly, these three retirees are faced with an abyss of financial uncertainty.
But sometimes inspiration comes from unlikely places.
Joe's in his bank trying to forestall foreclosure when the place gets robbed by three masked men. They take a lot of money. And they get away with it.
A brainstorm is soon hatched in Joe's mind: If those masked goons can rob a bank so easily, maybe Joe and his compatriots can, too. It's a hard sell for Albert who (rightly) recognizes that none of them are really bank robber material. But with the help of some shady connections (including a pet store owner named Jesus), the pension-denied old guys plot their revenge on the bank managing the dissolution of their old employer.
Joe and Co. "only" plan to pilfer what their pensions would have paid out. So it's not really stealing so much as reclaiming what was rightfully theirs and stolen from them. They're not committing a crime so much as righting an injustice …
… by wearing Rat Pack masks, carrying guns and robbing a bank.
Joe, Albert and Willie can get pretty cranky. But beneath their crusty old-guy facades, they're good friends who are absolutely devoted to each other and to their families. They "do" life together, even if their lives are pretty mundane (up to the moment they decide to rob a bank, that is).
Joe and Willie are also devoted grandfathers. Willie Skypes with his daughter and granddaughter, while Joe functions practically as a surrogate father for his granddaughter, Brooklyn. He walks her to school. Picks her up. Teaches her life lessons—basically all the things a good dad would do.
When Joe recounts his experience of being in the middle of a the first robbery, Brooklyn exclaims with a grin, "So cool being in the middle of a heist!" But her mother corrects her: "Crime is not cool."
Brooklyn actually has a dad … a deadbeat one. Joe gets in touch with the guy, Murphy, when he wants to find someone to mentor him in the ways of bank robbing. (Obviously, none of that is good.) Before the robbery, Joe gives Murphy a pep talk in the event that Joe doesn't survive the crime. "You're her father," he tells Murphy, "You gotta step up to the plate and act like a man, even if you have to fake it."
[Spoiler Warning] Joe and Albert eventually learn that their friend Willie is near death due to kidney failure. Albert willingly and sacrificially donates a kidney to save him.
Joe tells his granddaughter that her father will pick her up from school instead of him (on the day of the robbery). She responds, "Did he find Jesus or something?" Joe responds, "Doubtful."
Two female characters, Annie and a waitress, both wear crosses. There's a passing reference to the biblical character Adam.
Annie works diligently to coax Albert into a romantic relationship, though she's hardly subtle. As Albert's shopping for chicken at the grocery store, she coyly asks, "Breasts are better than thighs, don't you think?" Eventually she wears him down, and we see the couple post-coitus in bed together. There are jokes later about the number of times they have sex one day, as well as other winking allusions to their physical relationship. [Spoiler Warning] In the end, the couple ties the knot in a joyful wedding ceremony.
Joe, Albert and Willie watch ABC's reality dating competition The Bachelorette together. A woman on the show wears a dress with a plunging neckline. Al dubs her a "walking venereal disease" because she's "kissed the whole cast." They also call one of the male contestants a "man whore." Elsewhere, a waitress hits on a married police officer.
Joe is present in the bank when three men in masks show up firing machine guns into the air to intimidate patrons and employees there. Later, he and his buddies imitate that strategy with pistols, though he loads them with blanks to make sure that no one is injured.
Joe points his gun and fires several blanks to scare the bank manager who sold him a dodgy mortgage refinancing product. The man finds a security officer's gun and fires multiple real rounds. But he's so terrified that he can't hit anyone with those shots.
Crude or Profane Language
One fully voiced f-word. A song on the soundtrack fully voices the word "mother," followed by a partially censored f-word, at least 15 times; despite that, it's obvious what's being sung. We also hear one use of the f-word stand-in "friggin'."
We hear a dozen or so s-words. God's name is also abused about a dozen times (including three pairings with "d--n"), while Jesus' name is misused twice. There are five uses of "h---," four of "b--ch," and one or two each of "a--," "a--hole," "b--tards," "d--n," "p-ss," "t-ts" and "crap." We hear the British vulgarity "bloody" twice.
Joe and Brooklyn both rebuke each other for using profanity.
Drug and Alcohol Content
The guys (and others) drink various alcoholic beverages throughout the film.
Murphy, it turns out, owns a medical marijuana dispensary. He repeatedly extolls the virtues of his product, saying that it's good for "anxiety, pain, seizures and stress." Joe and Willie (predictably) end up smoking some pot and getting very high. It's pretty clear from their clichéd, over-the-top reaction to the marijuana (giggling, "the munchies," etc.) that they've never used it before. Murphy also gives them a huge bag of marijuana to procure the services of Jesus, the pet-store owner and bank robbing mentor. We see Jesus smoke a large joint.
We hear a joke about someone being a "Colombian drug mule," and there's a running gag about cocaine use.
Other Negative Elements
As a "dry run" of sorts, Joe and Willie try (unsuccessfully) to shoplift some food (for dinner, because they're broke) from a grocery store. (We see them sticking various groceries in their pants, coats, etc.) After a long and ridiculous chase (they steal an even more elderly woman's scooter and try to outrun a pursuing security guard), they're caught. The grocery store manager eventually lets them go.
The film wants to rationalize three disgruntled former pensioners robbing a bank by painting them as aggrieved victims. We're not really supposed to think too hard about the crime they commit (and get away with); rather, we're encouraged to excuse it as a kind of vigilante justice, three old men just doing what they have to do to get what they feel is rightfully theirs.
The guys joke that they'll be better off if they get arrested, with one of them saying they'll receive, "three meals a day, a bed and better health care." Jesus describes robbing a bank as an "art form."
During the first bank robbery, an employee there wets his pants. We also see men (from behind) standing at urinals and talking in two scenes.
This remake of a 1979 film of the same name is a frustrating endeavor. There's lots to like. And lots not to like.
On the positive side of the ledger, the relationship these three struggling and desperate old codgers have with each other (and with their families) is truly sweet. The chemistry between acting icons Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin feels genuine. They obviously had a good time making the film, and they invite audiences into the same feel-good vibe.
If only there weren't so many things that work against that positive vibe.
It's a pretty long litany of things that are less admirable here: Albert's sexual relationship with Annie; Joe and Willie's pot use; everyone's use of a profanity.
Then there's the central conceit of the film itself: three old guys robbing a bank. It's silly and preposterous, of course. And we're not really meant to overthink the morality of it. After all, the film wants us to believe, these old guys have been wronged and they're just trying to right that wrong. Never mind if their strategy is also wrong, the film wants to say.
But even if Going In Style is intended to be a whimsical farce, it still plants a troubling seed: that successfully robbing a bank is possible, survivable and maybe even justifiable.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Morgan Freeman as Willie; Michael Caine as Joe Harding; Alan Arkin as Albert; Maria Dizzia as Rachel Harding; Joey King as Brooklyn; Peter Serafinowicz as Murphy; Matt Dillon as FBI Agent Hamer; Ann-Margret as Annie; Christopher Lloyd as Milton; Siobhan Fallon Hogan as Mitzi; Kenan Thompson as Grocery Store Manager; John Ortiz as Jesus; Melanie Nicholls-King as Cary Sachs; Ashley Aufderheide as Kanika
Zach Braff ( )
April 7, 2017
August 1, 2017