Just Getting Started is the third movie in which Morgan Freeman’s features or leads in recent series of “action-comedies” with a geriatric bent. This movie follows Last Vegas and Going in Style, and it is the third-best of them all. The Just Getting Started presented in the trailer or by IMDB descriptions is not the Just Getting Started that plays on the big screen. The trailer would have audiences believe that this movie is about Morgan Freeman’s established status as the big fish in a small pool of his retirement community who is suddenly forced to compete upon the arrival of an aged like fine wine Tommy Lee Jones. The IMDB description would have audiences believe that Just Getting Started is “a two-hander action comedy in the vein of Midnight Run, about an ex-F.B.I. Agent (Tommy Lee Jones) and an ex-mob lawyer in the Witness Protection Program (Morgan Freeman) having to put aside their petty rivalry on the golf course to fend off a mob hit.” This is one way to describe Just Getting Started in 40 words. There is another, more accurate way. Just Getting Started is a movie that can’t decide between trying to be a funny movie about two old men vying for control of a retirement community or a semi-serious movie about two men teaming up to stop an assassination.
But, nevertheless, this movie has hit theaters as the only new wide-release film from the past weekend. Morgan Freeman stars as Duke Diver, an aging playboy who works as the live-in manager of Villa Capri, a five-star retirement community in California. He courts women and plays golf with his friends. Almost immediately, Leo (Tommy Lee Jones) rolls up to the scene in his 2017 Ford F-150 and immediately throws a wrench in all of Duke’s schemes.
While this is happening, an assassin is dispatched to kill Duke because he apparently ratted on a mob boss. Just Getting Started throws one more plot thread into the mix with the arrival of Suzie (Rene Russo). She is at once immediately an object of courtship and source of competition for both Duke and Leo, while simultaneously being the potential end for Duke’s reign. Suzie was sent to Villa Capri by the larger corporation to evaluate Duke’s performance and probably fire him. Duke must now dodge responsibilities and bullets in his attempt to save his luxurious lifestyle.
Just Getting Started is at once much too simple and much too complicated. None of these three plot threads is delved into enough for them to be truly interesting or engaging. Yet, the inclusion of all three plot lines makes the movie more complex than a 90 minute old-person comedy should be. Almost every scene feels hurried and unfinished, as if the writers simply threw it together at the last minute.
The acting throughout is perfectly serviceable. All three of the main stars are fantastic actors, and even their B-game is good enough for Just Getting Started. Morgan Freeman apparently can’t help being magnetic, but that is more by his nature as the lovable grandfather that everyone wishes they had. What’s less effective about Morgan Freeman’s character is his status as an antihero. Just Getting Started waffles back and forth over whether or not it wants to make him into a “bad” guy. On the one hand, he objectifies women, basically steals money from the company he works for, and was employed by the mob. On the other, Just Getting Started clearly wants the audience to like him. This creates a situation in which the main character and protagonist of this movie exists in a half-state of audience identification.
One more thing that deserves mention is the product placements. Just Getting Started contains one of the most blatant and unforgivable instances of product placement in recent memory. It’s not played for a laugh, or done in order to call attention to itself in a pseudo fourth-wall break. It’s only done for money. In the third act, Leo and Duke are driving in Leo’s truck. They are shot at by the assassin, and the truck breaks down. The two jump out and the first words from Leo are “They shot my truck! This is my brand new Ford F-150 4×4 with a custom bed and ruby red paint!” It’s almost as if they filmed a movie around a celebrity endorsement commercial. This scene occurs after many features of this truck, especially its off-road capability, have been showcased in the movie.
There really isn’t much reason to see this movie, unless the ticket is free. Every other movie that is currently in theaters is better than Just Getting Started, except for Daddy’s Home 2, and Star Wars is coming out in a few days. If a Morgan Freeman action-comedy is desired, rent Going in Style instead.
Featured Image by Broad Green Pictures