Tower Heist is an entertaining crime comedy that features solid popcorn filmmaking from Brett Ratner and a big time cast having fun.
That the film is so much fun will be a surprise for some, for there is no other director as loathed as Brett Ratner. Exactly why is a bit of a mystery (not counting recent un-PC comments) since the man makes mostly solid genre movies of which Tower Heist is a highlight.
Essentially a revenge fantasy upon the billionaire fraudsters who robbed many American’s blind through Ponzi schemes, the film stars Ben Stiller as Josh Kovacs a building manager at New York’s most expensive apartment complex. When there chief resident Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) is arrested for stealing billions of dollars – including the pensions of Kovacs and his staff – a heist is planned to break into Shaw’s penthouse apartment and steal millions of dollars he has stashed in a safe.
Enter Slide (Eddie Murphy), a career thief who Kovacs enlists to train his band of amateur criminals - the cynical Charlie (Casey Affleck), the desperate Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) and the wacked out Enrique (Michael Pena) – to pull off this heist and dispense justice.
It is Murphy’s performance which many people will remember. He hasn’t played this type of street smart character in years, opting instead for either multi-character comedies or family movies. It’s a welcome return to form and proves that Murphy’s biting wit is still in good shape.
The other performances in Tower Heist are also good. Stiller is solid in the more straight man leading role, Michael Pena comes a close second to Murphy in the laugh-o-rama stakes, and Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe shows us her comedic skills as a Jamaican safe cracker.
Most impressive of all is Alan Alda, who uses his seasoned acting chops to effectively play a smarmy villain that we love to hate. (Makes it easier to side with the good guys if he is the one getting screwed over, that’s for sure.)
Ratner does a fine job with a script by Jeff Nathanson and Ted Griffin, the latter also previously scripting the familiar heist romp Ocean’s Eleven. With such experienced storytellers, it’s no wonder Tower Heist works as good if not better as a heist film as it does a comedy.
Smartly written and executed, Tower Heist is a pleasant surprise. It’s doubtful that this is Ratner’s out as fanboy punching bag, but at least it will provide ammo for those who see past the groupthink and are willing to back his position as a solid director of genre films.