Previous Review
Next Review
November 13, 2011
Review - " Tower Heist "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
For comments or to submit a movie review for possible inclusion on Delta Films site
please send an email to
Tower Heist
Directed by: Brett Ratner
Starring: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Matthew
Broderick, Stephen Henderson, Judd Hirsch, Tea Leoni, Michael Pena,
Gabourey Sidibe

The title of this film, as bland as it is, certainly cuts to the chase.  This
is a simple heist comedy that is fairly entertaining, even as it slightly
underuses the talents of its ensemble cast.  Brett Ratner, a director
better known for his reputation as a hack director responsible for some
entertaining successes (Rush Hour 1 & 2, Red Dragon) and some
other not so entertaining ones (Rush Hour 3, X-Men: The Last Stand),
found his way to bringing his workman-like skills to a pretty forgettable,
but enjoyable film.  Tower Heist is problematic in the way it attempts to
take a very goofy comedy and add more significance and emotion to
its story than it should have, but it still functions as a tolerable crowd

The film stars Ben Stiller as Josh Kovacs, the manager of a Manhattan
high-rise.  He has a sense of loyalty about his character, which puts
him in the good graces of the building’s richest tenant, Arthur Shaw
(Alan Alda), who lives in the penthouse.  As it turns out, Shaw is in fact
a Wall Street crook, who has stolen $2 billion, as well as embezzled the
pension funds of all of the employees of the tower.  Not sitting well with
Josh at all and eventually leading to his termination as an employee of
the tower, he decides to hatch a plan to rob Shaw’s penthouse of all of
the money he has possibly hidden there.

Various other characters (standards of the heist film genre) are all
accounted for, including Eddie Murphy as Slide, a crook who Josh
turns to for help; Casey Affleck as Charlie, Josh’s brother-in-law and the building concierge; Matthew Broderick as Mr.
Fitzugh, a bankrupt Wall Street investor willing to participate in the robbery; Michael Pena as Enrique, one of the buildings
newest employees; Gabourey Sidibe as Odessa, a Jamaican maid and expert safe cracker; and Tea Leoni as an FBI Agent,
keeping a close watch on Shaw.  While the employees posing as criminals are certainly amateurs at this sort of thing, they
would all like to hopefully get justice on the man who stole from them.

There is almost a natural
appeal to heist movies that
make them easily embraced by
audiences.  It must come down
to the idea that you always
want to root for the group of
characters to get away with an
elaborate scheme, and the
constant obstacles and twists
that get in the way make things
more exciting.  In Tower Heist
those elements are present but
are not really handled in a
particularly clever way.  There
are some neat sequences upon
getting to the actual heist, but
the film exists more as a way to
put funny people together into
some fun scenes.  It is not that
this is a bad thing, but besides
how it utilizes these characters
(which I’ll get to), the elaborate
plotting of this film’s heist has
way too many holes to be taken seriously.  I point this out because the film could have been even more fun if it was taken a
bit less seriously or better handled if Ratner’s abilities as a director could have paid off at achieving something greater than
simply taking a by-the-numbers story and hoping a funny cast on top would pay off.

Addressing some of what has lead up to this film, which I feel like I have been following for quite some time, Eddie Murphy was
originally developing this film as a “Black Ocean’s 11”, where he would have cast a host of the most popular black comedians
around.  Things didn’t initially pan out, Murphy left, and the project wound up in Ratner’s hands.  Among the various writers,
Ted Griffin (who penned Ocean’s 11), developed the screenplay.  And Murphy eventually signed back on in a supporting
role.  What all this development resulted in is a very generic story, hoping to cash in on its big name cast.  What started out

The cast in this film is good.  I did not find anyone to be exceptional, but I did enjoy the chemistry created between the
characters and the presence of certain individuals.  One of the bigger sells is the fact that Eddie Murphy is kind of back from
more family-oriented films and is here as a character reminiscent of his 80s films.  I found it surprising that Murphy is
somewhat held back from being in this film more.  His character doesn’t really come into play until a good portion of the way
through and even later on he only has so much to play around with in the film.  That said, Murphy makes me laugh and I was
happy to see that here.  A lot of the best lines actually came from Casey Affleck and Matthew Broderick, who seemed to be
having a good time selling dead pan lines and reacting to the others.  Tea Leoni is nearly wasted, despite one fun scene in a
bar with Stiller; Alda can play slimy pretty well; and Sidibe has the “crazy” accent to make people laugh.  It is Stiller who gets
the most work here, as the lead, and he more or less does a fine job at selling some of the (overly supplied) stakes/drama of
the film, while also getting some fun scenes with the other characters to play around with.

There have been many caper comedies in recent years, with one of the obvious examples being the Ocean’s series.  With
Tower Heist, you have all of the
pieces to make a film that does
not necessarily need to rival
‘Ocean’s’ sense of very cool
fun, but could have at least
made better use of two people
that can be incredibly funny
and a very talented supporting
cast.  As it stands, there is a lot
of fun to have in this slightly
overlong film, but it is not going
to leave much of a lasting
impression.  It certainly has its
moments and I do enjoy seeing
the plot of a heist movie come
together and reveal the various
twists and turns in its climax,
but its overall payoff and the
journey getting there is nothing
overly clever.  It is nice not to
dis a Bret Ratner film, but it
still stands as merely average.
Still, it's worth watching at least
as something that could have
been edgy, feels much more
like a very safe and toned
down version of an
interesting heist film.  If the
film were not content with
being a straight comedy,
more could have been done
with situations like
distinguishing the classes
between the employees and
the building tenants or with
how Shaw’s actions are
relevant.  Instead, the film
basically takes an easy
route.  That’s not a bad
thing, but the lack of
anything else new being
brought to the table or not
playing out as a laugh-a-
minute comedy does not help