What happens when you put three Academy award winning actors in one movie? I know I wanted to find out when I heard about this film. It managed to match my hopes and expectations with a well crafted plot and a fun movie that kept me entertained.
Three lifelong friends discover that the steel company that they used to work for has merged. In the process, their pensions have been dissolved, leaving the three unable to pay their bills or take care of their families. Joe Harding (Michael Caine) can’t pay the mortgage on his house where his family lives with him so his granddaughter Brooklyn (Joey King) can go to a better school. Willie (Morgan Freeman) has a failing kidney that needs to be replaced and can’t even go to visit his granddaughter. Albert (Alan Arkin) lives with Willie and barely scrapes by teaching children how to play the saxophone. But Joe has an idea how they can fix their problems.
After witnessing a bank robbery, with a robber that treats Joe with respect, Joe decides that planning a heist is the way to go. He convinces Willie and after a trial run at a grocery store where everything goes wrong, the pair manages to recruit Albert. But they need help. With the help of Joe’s ex-son-in-law played by Peter Serafinowicz, the trio hire pet shop owner Jesus (John Ortiz) to help them plan out the job. But will the three be able to pull it off, succeed in getting the money or will it all go wrong?
What really sells this movie is Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin. I don’t think it would have worked or been anywhere near as good without them. With them, I really liked the way everything came together. First of all, there are some poignant moments between the three as they react first to losing their pension because of greed and as they argue over the solution. Alan Arkin is particularly good as gruff, grumpy Albert who eventually is won over by the other two. Never do they pretend to be young either. All three are older, either close to or in their eighties, which means when it comes time to rob the bank, they have to work around that problem. I won’t spoil the plan but suffice to say, when it plays out on screen, it makes sense for these men to be able to pull off. The humor and warmth between them makes the movie engaging and I was laughing at every joke.
Beyond just these three veteran actors, there is a barrage of quality performances by other actors. Christopher Lloyd plays a bit part as their demented friend at the senior center. His humorous performance livens up every scene he’s in. Ann-Margret is sweet as Annie, an older woman who manages to flirt her way into Albert’s heart over chicken breasts. There is wonderful warmth between Joey king, playing Brooklyn and Michael Caine which makes their relationship believable and sweet. Keenan Thompson has a part as the manager of the grocery store and gets some of the funnier lines in the film. Matt Dillon plays the FBI agent brought in find out who robbed the bank.
The craft of the heist itself might be familiar to those who watch the genre but that is part of the fun, trying to figure out what the plan is and how they are going to make it work. Michael Caine is perfect in his role as Joe, the mastermind of the group, which given his roles in Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels and The Italian Job is not a stretch for him but allows him to use his experience to make the film better. While none of the beats are new in any way, it is still well acted and orchestrated by the director in a way that works and plays to the strengths of all three actors. It also highlights that age does not mean inability. It just means working around ailments and slowing down, building in social commentary about what growing old in America can mean and what we are driven to, depending on the circumstances.
While it is entertaining, the film’s biggest flaw lays in the fact that it depends on the acting of Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin to carry it forward. Without their performances, there is nothing really special about the movie. Nothing is groundbreaking and there are no new tricks to the heist that we are shown. We also don’t get shown much of Joe or Willie’s family. While Joe does spend some time with his granddaughter, none of the family members are very well developed. There is some great dialogue between Joe and Murphy, his ex-son-in-law and I would have loved to have seen more.
Zach Braff has given us an engaging, fun buddy heist movie with great scenes between Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin. The heist is well crafted, the dialogue is snappy, and the actors look like they had fun. My husband and I laughed throughout the movie. If you like comedies and buddy movies, this one is worth checking out. It is thoroughly enjoyable.
Rating: 4 stars
Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin team up as lifelong buddies Willie, Joe and Al, who 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.
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret, Joey King, with Matt Dillion, Christopher Lloyd
Directed by: Zach Braff
Screenplay by: Theodore Melfi
Based on: “Going in Style” by Martin Brest