Review: Tower Heist
PLOT: When the staff of a luxury apartment building is ripped-off in a tenantís (Alan Alda) Ponzi scheme, the building manager (Ben Stiller) decides to get even by raiding the unscrupulous tenantís apartment, where heís rumored to be hiding $20 million in cash. The only hitch? Itís guarded around-the-clock by FBI agents.
REVIEW: TOWER HEIST is a film that will no doubt resonate for a lot of people. We live in financially perilous times, where not only has the economy all but collapsed, but vultures like Bernie Madoff (and in Montreal, Earl Jones) regularly clean out their victimsí life savings, leaving people that were once comfortably middle-class all but destitute.
Brett Ratnerís TOWER HEIST features a bunch of hard-working schmoes, out-thinking, out-maneuvering and getting even with a Madoff-like figure, played by a slimy Alan Alda. I know, slimy and Alan Alda doesnít really go together (who didnít grow up watching him as the loveable Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H?). Well, turns out Alda can play a pretty good villain if given a chance, and his Arthur Shaw is so evil that members of the audience I saw this with were all but hissing every time he showed up on-screen.
As for the good guys, theyíre a great ensemble of likable, everyman-type guys, led by an unusually sedate Ben Stiller. Here, he plays the underdog, working-class hero, and he never dips into the stock Stiller character, meaning no mugging, no temper tantrums, or anything youíd get in the usual Stiller romp. While TOWER HEIST is still a comedy, Stiller plays the straight-man, and makes for a likable hero worth-rooting for.
The laughs in TOWER HEIST come mostly from Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick and Michael Pena. Murphyís been getting a lot of buzz coming off his turn here, and without a doubt itís the best thing heís done since DREAMGIRLS. Director Brett Ratner doesnít shackle Murphy to a family-friendly script, and allows him to cut loose with some fun improvisations and riffs, especially a funny bit where he recalls Stillerís character having seizures as a child. Playing Stillerís small-time crook neighbor, Murphy owns every scene heís in and if TOWER HEIST is a hit, this could be a big comeback vehicle for the former great.
Whenever Murphyís off-screen, the laughs mostly come from Broderick, playing a former Wall Street whiz, reduced to living in a Motel 6 after the market crash. Broderick hasnít been this likable in a while and along with Murphy, his career might really get kicked-up a notch if this one hits. Ditto Michael Pena, who was the funniest thing about the otherwise lame 30 MINUTES OR LESS, and kills as the loud-mouthed elevator operator turned heist technician in the climactic robbery.
Casey Affleck plays Stillerís hard-working brother-in-law who gets roped into the robbery, but is the only one sane enough to realize theyíre in over their heads. Ratner regular Tea Leoni makes for a likable love interest as the FBI agent trying to take down Aldaís character, who finds herself sympathetic to Stillerís plight.
Boy, itís really starting to seem like I enjoyed TOWER HEIST, isnít it? I gotta say, for the most part the film really works, and Brett Ratner deserves a lot of credit. People love to hate the guy, but this is really a big step up for him, and easily the best thing heís done since RUSH HOUR 2 (much better than people remember). Ratner manages to make TOWER HEIST work as both a heist film (probably more inspired by classics like GRAND SLAM and THE ANDERSON TAPES than the OCEANS films), and a comedy. A climactic scene which features part of the cast dangling on-top of a car hanging from the high-rise roof is really well-executed, and at 95 minutes, Ratner keeps TOWER HEIST very tight.
All in all, I really enjoyed TOWER HEIST, and even if youíre not usually a Ratner fan, you should give it a shot. Itís a fun heist flick and a great showcase for Murphy, Pena and Broderick. Check it out.