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Film review: Tower Heist
Film work details
Title: Tower Heist
Produced by: Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment, Relativity Media, Rat Entertainment
Directed by: Brett Ratner
Written by: Ted Griffin, Jeff Nathanson
Starring: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Téa Leoni, Alan Alda, Michael Peña, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Gabourey Sidibe, Stephen Henderson, Judd Hirsch
Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy lead an all-star cast in this hilarious comedy caper about a luxury condo manager (Stiller) who leads a staff of workers to seek payback on the Wall Street swindler (Alan Alda) who defrauded them. With only days until the billionaire gets away with the perfect crime, the unlikely crew of amateur thieves enlists the help of petty crook Slide (Murphy) to steal the $20 million they’re sure is hidden in the penthouse.
Genre: action, comedy
(Age) rating: PG-13 Content advisory: contains mildly intense adult situations and some adult language
Reviewer rating: 4 Popcorns out of a possible 5
Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) works as manager of The Tower, a luxury residential apartment complex in NY City. Although Kovacs is a serious professional who performs his job in complete accordance to the rules, underneath his smooth exterior he has a big heart and is well liked by the staff. The tenants seem to trust Kovacs, especially financier Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda). One day the complex security system alerts the staff to what appears to be people kidnapping Shaw. As Kovacs attempts to thwart the kidnappers he is blocked by FBI agents. They later inform him that it was not a real attempted kidnapping but a farce staged by Shaw himself in the attempt to avoid prosecution for felonious mishandling of funds. Among the charges brought against Shaw is the accusation that he's used the pensions of The Tower staff in a Ponzi scheme. Kovacs is particularly uncomfortable with this as he had, unwittingly, given Shaw legal authority over control of the staffs' financial interests. When the well-loved door man attempts to commit suicide Kovacs becomes angry. He confronts Shaw, who has been put on house arrest until his trial. During this incident Kovacs realizes how corrupt Shaw truly is. He loses his temper altogether at Shaw's snide attitude and in doing so also loses his job at The Tower.
Kovacs now decides to get justice for the people who had depended on him. His vision is to take from Shaw the pension money he has so far kept hidden from FBI investigators. With the help of two other former complex employees Kovacs devises a plan to get into the penthouse apartment where they believe Shaw has stashed the pension money. However, they realize they can't pull off the heist alone and recruit the help of a former and bankrupted tenant, a criminal from Kovacs home neighborhood (Eddie Murphy) and one of the disgruntled maids from the complex. As they prepare for the robbery Kovacs and his unlikely team get help from another unlikely source – the FBI agent (Téa Leoni) who is both repulsed by Shaw and smitten by Kovacs. But nothing prepares any of them for the shock of a lifetime awaiting in Shaw's penthouse.
The plot of Tower Heist was clearly inspired by recent criminal shennanigans committed by very real Wall Street investors. Alan Alda (not usually one of my favorite actors) gives a sterling performance as the Bernie Madoff-like Shaw. His character is charming, sophisticated, intellectual and totally lacks any compunction about the pain he's inflicted on his victims. In Shaw's view they are all his class inferiors and by that inferiority deserving to be taken advantage of. Ben Stiller gives a likewise mature performance as a modern-day Robin Hood, and his comedic talents are not lost in the darkness of the story. I admit that I had some doubt about watching Tower Heist to begin with due to the casting of Eddie Murphy in a feature role. Over the last several years Murphy has concentrated on making a string of dopey family movies, his last decent film for adult audiences having been Bowfinger in 1999. I expected more of the same here, but thankfully, my reservations were not validated. Murphy’s portrayal of a self-concerned thug is sharp and his deliverance of witty dialog never once comes off as scene-stealing.
Aside from the nicely novel premise, there are two things that really stand out about Tower Heist and which deserve mentioning. The first is the originality of all the characters. They are quirky and attractively devoid of the plastic that runs rampant in chic-conscious crime films like the Ocean's films and many action flicks made by the Coen brothers. Secondly, this movie has none of the unbelievable (and ridiculous) doses of special effects that saturate practically all contemporary action films. The thrills and danger in Tower Heist here are things that could very possibly happen to anyone attempting an adventurous heist in the real world. For this, the capers are simply much more fun to watch.
If I have one criticism of this film it is with the last few minutes. It is an abrupt and rather choppy ending to such an intriguing story, as if the editor(s) had no concern for audience satisfaction. There was closure, yes, but as a viewer I was disappointed in not having clear insight on the fate of all the major players.
Tower Heist is an action crime film that treats the subject matter with a respectful blend of dark comedy and social commentary. The plot is clever, the dialog is witty, the characters are quirky and even with the problematic ending, I came away from it feeling quite entertained. This is one movie I’m sure to watch again and won’t be disappointed if there is a sequel!
Reviewer rating – Four popcorns
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