Yet director Brett Ratner, characteristic of his technical competence and clumsiness with everything else, doesn't seem to understand what's most enjoyable about his actors, his premise, or heist movies in general. Ratner isn't a process-oriented guy, so he stumbles through the heist planning haphazardly, pausing for some funny riffs but very little detail about how these guys are actually gonna take the building. You expect the revelations to come mid-action instead, but they never really turn up; at one point, Stiller panics because Murphy does something counter to their original plan, and the movie never bothers telling anyone what that original plan was. Instead, it spends time making laborious justifications for ripping off the bad guy, as if afraid the audience will mistake the Alda character for a misunderstood businessman and the likable working-class guys for scary Occupy Trump Tower revolutionaries.
That would be secondary if the movie had more comedic gusto. Curiously, given his producer credit and poster presence, Murphy, for all of the laughs he gets just by doing some ranting and riffing, doesn't have much of a role, not just in conception (he's the actual criminal the workers get to help with the robbery, and it's unclear as to how clever he's actually supposed to be), but in actual screentime. He's not cast as Stiller's mismatched buddy; this is a less glam Ocean's 11, with Stiller, letting the gray in his hair show, in the Clooney role, and Murphy not even given the Brad Pitt first lieutenant position—he's got a part scarcely bigger than Casey Affleck (in either an Ocean's movie or this one). I suppose the democracy of the comedy distribution, and Murphy's apparent lack of movie-dominating ego, is refreshing; the ensemble does work up a nice chemistry, and many of the movie's best scenes are group tangents.
But as Ratner has proven in any number of genres, from thriller (Red Dragon) to sci-fi/fantasy (X-Men: The Last Stand), there's no strong ensemble he can't undermine with slack, indifferent, just-get-it-done direction, so the movie could've used as much extra Murphy as possible. Tower Heist is marginally better than his Pierce Brosnan/Salma Hayek/Don Cheadle caper After the Sunset, mostly because the comedy breaks the patented Ratner tedium. But he seems to have learned shockingly little over the years; he still assembles talent and then just directs traffic. Maybe he identifies with these characters because he so often appears to be punching the clock. For Murphy, who recently admitted to Rolling Stone that he may hold some kind of record for the number of sequels he's made (eight, by my count), this is still a major upswing. For Stiller, it's strictly in the middle: not as lazy or pandering as his Fockers/Museum forays but not as strong a mainstream comedy as Tropic Thunder or Zoolander (unlike Murphy, though, he has movies like Greenberg and The Royal Tenenbaums on his resume to cushion the blows of doing Ratner-or-worse movies). I'd love to see them in another movie that uses its actors as more than just insurance.
Anyway, I hope that the early-bird timing that had me watching a Christmas movie on the second day of November doesn't keep audiences away from A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, which made me laugh more than Tower Heist. Second installment Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay had such a promising title, insinuating that the sequel would hit more goofy yet sly sociopolitical notes amidst the gross-out stoner humor. The degree to which that movie just doesn't quite work still boggles my mind, but the Christmas version is a return to form of sorts; you can read more in my full review.The Son of No One: The barely-released movies with name actors just keep on coming! From writer-director Dito Montiel, The Son of No One boasts a ridiculously eclectic bordering on absurd cast, with Channing Tatum supported by older actors both legendary (Al Pacino) and Ray Liotta (Ray Liotta), plus Juliette Binoche, Katie Holmes, and Tracy Morgan in a serious role. Try to picture a movie that stars all of these people, I dare you.
I missed the press screening and would go see this for novelty, but I'm too distracted trying to figure out if I can manage seeing this barely-released movie with a name star (or at least, Christina Ricci), a rom-com about renaissance fairs that I had no idea existed until my wife, who used to go to the faire every year, pointed it out to me. But anyway, The Son of No One: it's almost certainly better than Trespass or The Double or, for that matter, Pacino's Righteous Kill or 88 Minutes! How much better is anyone's guess.