Friday, November 4, 2011

Tower Heist

“Tower Heist” is better than it looks. By now I’m sure you’ve seen the many commercials for it either in the theaters or on TV featuring Eddie Murphy up to his crazy antics, spouting goofy lines (“Man what you tryin’ to steal!”)  Or “Precious” Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe as a crazy Jamaican maid. Doesn’t exactly sound like a promising movie. But alas, it’s not wise to judge a movie by its trailer as “Tower Heist” turns out to be a surprisingly decent comedy/action movie. 

It’s sort of a spoof of the “Ocean’s Eleven” movies and other heist movies. Christopher Beck’s score is an obvious homage. It revolves around a group of people who decide to steal 20 million dollars.

At the same time, “Tower Heist” fits into the “average stiffs, who’ve never committed a crime, suddenly turn to crime” comedy sub genre. (“Horrible Bosses” from earlier this year is another example.)

The director of the film is Brett Ratner, who brought us the “Rush Hour Trilogy” and he’s definitely proven his skill for directing action movies. His direction is slick, he stages the action sequences exceptionally and he keeps the movie going at a steady pace. Fortunately there aren’t as many gunfights or high-speed car chases compared to the “Rush Hour” films but the few gunfights and car chases in the movie are of high quality.

 The main average stiff is Ben Stiller as Josh Kovacs, a devoted manager of a fancy New York high-rise apartment building, who along with all the other employees fall victim to a Ponzi scheme committed by one of the wealthy tenants Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda, cold and ruthless but comes off totally harmless). So Kovac and three others, the building concierge Charlie Gibbs (Casey Affleck), a laid off Wall Street worker Mr. Fitzhugh (Mathew Broderick) and the new bell hop Enrique Dev’reaux (Michael Pena) decide to sneak into his penthouse suite and steal the money back, (which they think is in a wall safe) during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Though they can’t do it without the help of a petty thief by the name of Slide (Murphy) who becomes their coach, which leads to a few amusing scenes of Slide giving them different tests, like when they have to go to the mall and each steal something in fifteen minutes.

For the most part the cast does very well. Stiller plays his role somewhat uptight and wussy but at the same time shows some guts, like when he smashes Arthur’s prized car in the living room of his apartment. Broderick does an exceptional job playing the pathetic, geeky member of the group and Dev’reaux is funny as the young, stupid naïve one. Together they all play off each other wonderfully and are all consistently funny.

The only one that didn’t work too well was Murphy, unfortunately. Yes, this is the best movie role “The Beverly Hills Cop” star has had in years and the film plays to his comedic talents but it only goes so far. He’s the only one I felt who was trying really hard to be funny, with his fast talking shtick, making big, wide faces. He is funny occasionally but after a while he becomes tiresome.

The script by Ted Grifin and Jeff Nathanson is well structured. It stays on a clear path, never veering off. It doesn’t get heavy with boring side plots. Something does start to ensue between Josh and an FBI agent played by Tea Leone but it doesn’t distract the film or ruin its pace. Also, a majority of the jokes came from dialog (“I’m going to blow your face clean off your face”) instead of physical or gross-out gags.

 Now, the heist sequence is ridiculous. Even with all their “brilliant” planning it’s hard to believe that they could still just walk into the building without being noticed and while they’re penetrating the safe, you’d think someone would notice them. But it’s still entertaining and kept me alert, wanting to see how it was all going to unfold. A lot of times comedies have trouble ending smoothly but “Tower Heist” successfully comes to satisfying ending while not being too forced or random.

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