On DVD: Tower Heist

Timely and familiar: these are the two qualities “Tower Heist” has going for it. Heist films have a reputation for good fun, and when said heist is pulled off by average or incompetent folks like these, all the better, as the characters become even easier to like. Add that they’re stealing from a millionaire who has defrauded hardworking people and you have a pitch-perfect modern battle of the 99 percent versus the one.

Director Brett Ratner sticks to the basics with “Tower Heist” and makes it work, plain and simple. Ben Stiller takes his seat at the head of the table of relatable guys and Eddie Murphy plops down next to him as the crooked thief version of his Donkey character from “Shrek.” Add Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Gabourey Sidibe and Michael Pena as out-of-type supporting characters and you have a bumbling group of lovable fools.

All these (except Murphy) work for Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) in his multi-million dollar luxury apartment building. When Shaw is arrested and they all learn their pensions (which Shaw managed) were essentially gone, their love of him, namely Stiller’s Josh Kovacs, turns to anger. After an FBI agent (Tea Leoni) tips them off that Shaw’s likely hiding a multimillion-dollar safety net somewhere in the building, Kovacs rallies a group of them together to find and steal the cash and hires Murphy’s character Slide to teach them the tricks of grand larceny.

The first portion of the film builds up these characters, their devotion to their work and their love of Shaw. It’s not a particularly funny chunk of the film, but coming from Ratner, it’s a thumbs up when you can say he appears not to try too hard (though that’s not the case throughout, however). The humor enters the picture as these guys learn how to be crooks. A sequence at the mall when Slide challenges them to steal $50 worth of merchandise in 15 minutes to prove they’re in for real stands out as one of the more clever.

Enter the heist act and the film dives off the silly cliff. Rather than get overly complicated in showing how they manage to get their way inside the tower, the film plays up the stupidity of security guards and other antics. Those expecting a really technical, exciting and realistic heist will find themselves, in a sense, defrauded. The script bets on its ludicrous nature and amusing characters to charm a smile on your face.

The real laugh-out-loud moments are scarce, but the minor characters add to our desire to see this plan succeed, no matter how *not* fool-proof it is. They keep our attention and make for some digestible entertainment. Talents like Affleck and Broderick relegating themselves to minor parts add a unique depth to the supporting roles that somewhat cancels out many of the predictable Murphy moments one would expect from a Ratner-directed feature.

“Tower Heist” also possesses some creativity that’s rare for a multi-writer script. Over the top it might be, but most sequences show you something you haven’t seen before despite the fact that the story’s skeleton gives you only things you’ve seen before. The result is a nice balance that makes for a watchable heist comedy.


3/5 Stars


Tower Heist
Directed by Brett Ratner
Written by Ted Griffin, Jeff Nathanson, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage
Starring: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni


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