‘Going in Style’ is just going through the motions

Three senior citizens approach a known criminal for advice on robbing a bank.

“You Five-O?” he asks.

“We’re practically Eight-O,” one of them responds.

If your hand just involuntarily slapped your knee, drop whatever you’re doing and head straight to the nearest multiplex to see “Going in Style.”

If not — and I’m assuming the majority of you fall squarely into the “not” category — look virtually anywhere else for better work from its stars, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin. Or even check out the 1979 original version of “Going in Style” with George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg.

It’s simply incomprehensible that something so limp and joyless came from director Zach Braff, who delivered the indie darling “Garden State,” and screenwriter Theodore Melfi, an Oscar nominee for his script for the delightful best picture nominee “Hidden Figures.”

Joe Harding (Caine) is dealing with a sleazy loan agent (Josh Pais), trying to figure out how his mortgage payment tripled overnight, when the Williamsburg Savings Bank is robbed. Three masked gunmen, moving in precision in matching suits, are in and out in a matter of moments while making sure to steal only from the bank and not its customers.

Then Joe and his lifelong friends, Willie Davis (Freeman) and Albert Gardner (Arkin), learn that their pension fund — money none of them can live without — is being dissolved, and Williamsburg Savings, where all three of them bank, is the one doing the dissolving.

The bank is planning to take Joe’s house in 30 days, which he can’t let happen, because he’s supporting his daughter and granddaughter. Willie is suffering from kidney failure and longs to see his beloved granddaughter more than once a year. And as for Albert, it isn’t really clear what he wants, other than, for some inexplicable reason, to be left alone by the flirtatious Annie (Ann-Margret, who, even at 75, still would generate an extraordinary number of right swipes).

Inspired by the robbery he witnessed, Joe becomes convinced the three of them can rip off Williamsburg Savings, taking only what’s owed to them — plus the 25 percent they promise their bank-robbery tutor, Jesus (John Ortiz).

What follows is pretty much everything you’d expect from a subgenre I like to call “old people do the craziest things.” They end up smoking weed, hot-wiring cars, shooting guns and watching “The Bachelorette,” unable to believe she’s kissed each of the remaining men. “She’s a walking venereal disease,” Willie scoffs.

Most of the members of the supporting cast — including Christopher Lloyd playing their lodge buddy, Milton, as though his Reverend Jim from “Taxi” spent the past 35 years sniffing glue and volunteering for electroshock treatment — act like they’re auditioning for a Saturday morning kids show.

And the leading men, who have four Oscars and nearly 400 acting credits among them, are clearly slumming it in “Going in Style.” You could lock Caine, Freeman and Arkin in a portable toilet and just let them riff for the movie’s 96-minute run time, and the result would be at least twice as entertaining and roughly half as odorous.

There’s no dramatic urgency, and for the most part, “Going in Style” is just going through the motions.

Sure, there’s a certain joy in seeing Freeman riding in the basket of a mobility scooter driven by Caine, their clothes stuffed with groceries as they flee the scene of a supermarket robbery during a trial run.

But for the most part, this “Going in Style” isn’t going much of anywhere, and certainly not in style.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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