“Going in Style” is a remake of the 1979 film of the same name that does an economical job of achieving what it sets out to do. The film follows three elderly men who lose their pensions when the manufacturing plant they worked for moves overseas. So they devise a plan to rob a bank and get that money back to help their families and themselves.
The plot is as tight as it can be. There’s just enough character motivation to get it moving, just enough adversity to keep things energized and just enough minor character scenes to create the illusion of time passing between each big plot point. With its structure lean, but not scanty, “Going in Style” has the concrete elements to provide a base off which to bounce the comedy.
The comedy comes in the form of the three lead characters Joe, Willie and Albert. They’re played by Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin, respectively. And their chemistry is the strongest part of the film. They really make it feel like these three truly are old friends. And because they are likable, we are made to care for them and the things that drive them.
The film has several B-plots. Ann-Margret is Alan Arkin’s love interest. Morgan Freeman wants to see more of his family. Michael Caine helps his granddaughter and her father reconnect. And even Christopher Lloyd shows up a few times to yell out of a megaphone. But “Going in Style” doesn’t get lost. It uses these to ground our main characters further and to give them more material to joke about.
This is why the actual bank robbery is the weakest part of the film. Because it isn’t them grumbling at their local diner or watching “The Bachelor.” They are forced to stay quiet and stick to their plan. It makes them a little too serious.
And by no means is this a serious film. There are no grand explorations of corporate disloyalty, greed and corruption in American banks or really even the bitter-sweetness of aging. There are hints of these, but they are present only to serve the narrative drive and get us to the film’s conclusion.
“Going in Style” is neither revolutionary nor complex. But it provides solid, funny escapism. And in a world where we do have to deal with disloyalty, greed and death, a film like this makes it a little easier and that’s nothing to laugh at.