Friday, November 18, 2011

Tower Heist - Movie Review


Starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Michael Pena, Tea Leoni, Judd Hirsch and Gabourey Sidibe. Directed by Brett Ratner.

The heist movie can be a fun genre. Look at The Town, The Bank Job, Ocean's 11, Inside Man, or the brilliant opening sequence of The Dark Knight. There's the suspense of whether or not the plan will be executed as designed. Will they actually get away with it?

This movie makes itself relevant by centering on a Bernie Madoff-type mogul under house arrest in his penthouse suite. That he's played by Alan Alda is a stroke of genius. He's a kind old man who connects with everyone else. Of course he's successful. Why should we suspect he's achieved this through ill-gotten means?

Unfortunately for the hotel staff at which he resides, all of their pensions were lost in his Ponzi scheme. They were initally put there by Josh (Ben Stiller), the manager of the hotel. But he gets a tip that millions in cash may be hidden in the suite somewhere. Josh and some of the staff, with their knowledge of the hotel's security system, determine that can sneak in there and find it themselves.

But none of them are criminals, and that's a nice take on the genre. These are ordinary people driven to desperate measures. They need help. Josh enlists his old pre-school friend Slide (Eddie Murphy), now a career thief, to help train them on the art of stealing.

Murphy is the highlight of the movie and gives his funniest performance in about a decade. It's a return to form for him, and I hope he sticks with it. (I'm hoping A Thousand Words is his mute Liar Liar, but we'll see.)

There are some nice twists along the way, and most of the actors get their moments. Gabourey Sidibe's Jamaican accent is ill-advised, but I liked Matthew Broderick as a suicidal former Merrill Lynch employee now squatting in the building.

Brett Ratner's reviled industry-wide for his lack of skill, and I think part of that is because of his success. He's not bad, he's just workmanlike. His directing here is stronger in the comedic scenes than the action. The third-act finale might have been better had it been smaller. (Does it really need to happen during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?)

I will say somewhere along the way, some key story elements must have been edited out. There's one event that happened where we're informed it was part of the plan, and I had to think about it. "Wait a minute. How did they do it?" Like there was a plot device someone put a pin in so they could get to the section of the story and they never revisited it.

Contrivances aside, it's a decent comedy which made me chuckle a few times. Glad I saw it.

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