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Tower Heist - Review

Tower Heist

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

GIVEN the comedic talents at play in Brett Ratner’s action comedy, Tower Heist should have been a great deal funnier. As things stand, it’s a competent if instantly forgettable crowd-amuser.

If anything, the film works better during its more dramatic moments when Ratner doesn’t seem quite so concerned with offending viewers given the all-too-real backdrop of everyday workers being screwed by an unscrupulous businessman.

The film focuses on Queens native Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller), who has managed one of the most luxurious and well-secured residences in New York City for more than a decade.

Under his watchful eye, nothing goes undetected. But his loyalties are called into question when the building’s owner, Wall Street titan Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), who has become something of a father figure to Josh, is placed under under house arrest after being caught stealing two billion from his investors… the hardest hit being the tower staffers whose pensions he was entrusted to manage.

With only days before Arthur gets away with the perfect crime, Josh puts together a crew of co-workers (Casey Affleck, Michael Pena and Gabourey Sidibe) and a once-successful stockbroker (Matthew Broderick) and enlists the help of a petty crook (Eddie Murphy) to steal back what they are sure is hidden in Arthur’s guarded condo.

Given the sensitive nature of its economic backdrop (Alda’s businessman is a metaphor for much of what’s wrong with corporate America and global banking chains), it’s perhaps not surprising to find that a lot of the jokes tend to go for the cheap targets and obvious pratfalls. But they could and should have offered so much more.

Instead, Ratner would rather rely on the sense of nostalgia posed by seeing Murphy return to the sort of edgy, wise-cracking terrain he exploited in his early days (48 Hours especially, minus the swearing) and the appeal of seeing such a showy cast be put through all manner of pratfalls as they seek to gain the upper hand.

Murphy, for his part, is merely OK as the petty crook and could certainly have benefited from a higher certificate to really throw of the shackles, while the remainder of the cast have to work really hard to ring the humour out of the fairly pedestrian screenplay (such as during a comical scene in a shopping mall, when Murphy’s thief sets them the task of stealing one item each, or during a fun interplay between Stiller’s Josh and Tea Leoni’s drunken special agent).

The heist sequence itself, meanwhile, offers some high-rise thrills and a fair amount of tension but fails to stand up to close scrutiny given the nature of what’s involved.

Tower Heist only really works well during the moments between Josh and Arthur Shaw, which enables a sort of cat-and-mouse battle-of-wits to develop between Stiller and Alda that’s played mostly serious and which hints at an overall intelligence the remainder of the film fails to reach.

It does at least grip and ensures that you’ll be rooting for Stiller’s crew come the final farcical moments.

Overall, however, you can’t help but feel more than a little cheated by a star-studded action-comedy that promises more than it delivers. You’ll be entertained but only moderately so.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 104mins
UK Release Date: November 2, 2011