Movies:Movie Reviews:Tower Heist

Tower Heist

Tower Heist
Photo: ©2011 Universal Pictures

Director(s): Brett Ratner

Writer(s): Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson

Cast: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni, Gabourey Sidibe, Casey Affleck, Stephen Henderson, Judd Hirsch, Michael Pena and Alan Alda

Reviewed by: Ian Evans on

Release Date(s)

Nov 4, 2011 - Wide

The Tower is an exclusive Manhattan condo tower with an attentive staff led by Josh (Ben Stiller). From the doorman Lester (Stephen McKinley Henderson) to the concierge Charlie (Casey Affleck), the whims of each resident are met swiftly. One of those residents is Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), whose penthouse suite includes a rooftop swimming pool. Tremendously rich, Shaw likes to remind everyone, including new hotel operator Enrique (Michael Pena), that he started in the same neighbourhood as Josh.

So the staff are initially shocked when Shaw is arrested by an FBI team lead by Special Agent Claire Denham and charged with a Bernie Madoff-like ponzi scheme. That shock turns to anger when they realize that Shaw has also made off with the pension funds. When a near tragedy occurs because of this, Josh hatches a plan to get the money back, enlisting the aid of a down-on-his-luck financial whiz (Matthew Broderick) and a criminal from his past, Slide (Eddie Murphy).

A good heist film requires timing, subtle twists and a clever scheme to make off with the prize. Tower Heist’s plans have all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and logic holes you could drive a car through. This is a comedy heist, so it probably helps the cause that the schemers are more thick than they are thieves. For a staff prized for their attentiveness, they aren’t the most detail oriented people and even the criminal they bring into their fold isn’t experienced with criminal activity of this calibre.

Director Brett Ratner, whose main claim to fame is the Rush Hour trilogy, and screenwriters Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson don’t have their leads stray too far from their comfort zones. Ben Stiller is still the guy with anger simmering just below the surface while Eddie Murphy revisits the wise-talking guy from the streets. Matthew Broderick is still mining the rich vein of sad-sack loser that makes us begin to forget he was ever the cool fast-thinker he portrayed in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Tea Leoni’s plays her FBI agent pretty straight, while Gabourey Sidibe shows she has comedic chops to go along with the dramatic ones she showed us in Precious.

The one character that is fun is Alan Alda’s Arthur Shaw. Slick and slimy like the financial snake that he is, Alda’s character gives the viewers a good target for all their anger towards Wall Street greed and wrongdoing.

There are a few good laughs and the film is somewhat entertaining, but that’s the real shame. In the right hands and with the right script this could have been a real David and Goliath triumph for the screwed over little guy story that would have been perfectly timed for how people are feeling in this economy and the financial collapse behind it. Yet the filmmakers don’t give us that effort. It’s just passable, the bare minimum need to get it on the screens. And that’s the real crime.