Directed by Brett Ratner
Can an $85 million Hollywood film actually stand up for the little guy? Unsurprisingly, the answer is no. Tower Heist is the 1%, turning the frustrations of the masses into an all-star action/comedy hybrid moneymaker under the guise of empathy, and tossing a few comic crumbs to those of us willing to suspend a little disbelief.
Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) is our modern-day Robin Hood, a Queens resident born and raised (and therefore, a good guy, a card-carrying member of Hollywood's venerable, morally infallible small-town boys club). He's the expert building manager for The Tower, a gold-plated monstrosity just off of Columbus Circle. When penthouse resident Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) is placed under house arrest for an alleged Ponzi scheme, the pension plans of the Tower staff are considered lost thanks to Kovacs's naïve trust in Shaw's abilities. The clouds part when terribly written FBI Agent Claire Dunham (Tea Leoni as the unbelievably, passionately uncouth government agent) drunkenly hints at a large safety net that Shaw is hiding, and Kovacs decides to assemble a team and seek retribution. Cue the music.
Naturally, the humor comes to a head when Josh, Charlie (Casey Affleck), Enrique (Michael Pena), Mr. Fitzhugh (a nebbish and finally enjoyable again Matthew Broderick) recruit experienced thief Slide (Eddie Murphy) to help them rob Shaw. Quick cuts alongside a gang of naïve, mismatched personalities is an easy recipe for success—director Brett Ratner is lucky that it actually holds up here. Gabourey Sidibe lends her talents as the safe-cracking Odessa, and while it's disheartening to watch her play along with cheap fat jokes and force a weak Jamaican accent, she somehow manages to be one of the film's few highlights, for the energy and palpable verve she inserts into this all-too-measly part. Murphy, too, makes more than anticipated of his rote role as the crazy-ass con man. His fast-talking schtick goes far against Stiller's straight-man routine.
The gaps in the heist plot only get wider as the film progresses, but to think too much would defeat the purpose. Best not to question the entirely unethical and implausible relationship between Special Agent Claire Dunham and Josh Kovacs, or why we're meant to root for these one-dimensional characters in the first place. Perhaps if the lower-class characters were defined by quick wits instead of broad racial stereotypes, by backstory instead of cultural symbolism... but there's no time for that here. In this 104-minute race to redemption, it's the rich versus the poor, which is all you need to know.
Opens November 4