I went into this one with quite low expectations. Dodgy director. Dodgy cast. Hmmm…not sure about this film. Ben Stiller seems to make the same film over and over and I have grown quite bored with it. Eddie Murphy has made a string of bad films like Norbit and Meet Dave since his strong performance in Dreamgirls and ensuing Oscar nomination. Casey Affleck was associated with that very weird Joaquin Phoenix stopping acting and becoming a rapper “joke” and was slapped with a sexual assault charge a couple of years ago by a woman who worked on a film he directed. Matthew Broderick has not acted onscreen very much lately as he has been concentrating on his Broadway career. Veteran actors Alan Alda and Judd Hirsch do not work very much. Director Brett Ratner has not made very many films that he can brag about. I mean, Rush Hour 3, Red Dragon and The Family Man were not exactly ones to write home about and he has the honor of directing the weakest of the X-Men films. I think you get my drift. Tower Heist has plenty of well-known actors in it but their track records have been iffy at best of late. Low expectations seemed appropriate.
For what it is worth, Ratner’s Tower Heist was a decent escapist film. It allows the viewer to laugh a bit and turn their mind off for 104 minutes. I laughed a whole lot more than I could have predicted. It is a fun watch. None of the gags are very subtle. Actually, they are a broad and large as an elephant. And probably less delicate and politically correct. But that did not stop me from chuckling at them.
The story and score will remind viewers old enough or well-versed in their heist films of the films of that ilk from the 1970s. As far as stories go this is one built on a simple premise. Wall Street tycoon Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) gets his building manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) to take care of his employees’ retirement pensions. A la Bernie Madoff and other Ponzi schemes faster than you can say “corruption” the employee pensions are gone. Due to his power and political affiliations, it seems like Shaw is going to get away with the disappearance of the over $2 billion dollars.
Kovacs, who has also lost his money, is not going to take this lying down and tells Shaw that he will get the $20 million he stole from his employees back no matter what it takes. A statement which Shaw just chuckles in response to. To accomplish this he bails his grade school tormenter and present day thief, Slide (Eddie Murphy), out of jail and proposes the idea to him that they steal the money back from Shaw. All they know is that the millions they are looking for have been hidden in a safe somewhere inside his penthouse in the building.
With Slide on board as the (gulp) brains and experience, Kovacs gets Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) to be the inside man, a maid named Oddessa (Gabourey Sidibe) to be the safe cracker, concierge Charlie (Casey Affleck) to be the look out, and newly hired bellhop Enrique Dev’Reaux (Michael Pena) to help him and Slide carry out their plan. Besides outsmarting the wise and immoral Shaw the group of amateur thieves also has to stay one step ahead of the FBI’s Special Agent Claire Denham (Tea Leoni), who is hot on the trail of the money as well.
Surprisingly Ratner for the most part reigns in his over-the-top tendencies. Well, there is nothing he could do about Eddie Murphy’s interpretation of his character as that is what the man has done for decades now. Most of the action, despite the fact that it happens in the bigger than life city of New York and even includes a scene that takes place during the Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade, is fairly tight and streamlined. He also does not sacrifice the action portions in favour of humour. Ratner has his eyes on the prize.
Yes, the chances of a plan this ridiculous working and this conglomerate of characters being able to pull it off are nil to none, but as long as you are willing to overlook such silliness as logic (obviously I’m being sarcastic) you will probably enjoy the film due to the skill that this cast delivers their lines.