Hardworking high-rise employees turn to crime when it’s revealed one of their affluent tenants has lost their pensions to a shady investment. They ban together to get their cash back, as well as put the wealthy businessman in his place. Do I need to say that hijinks ensue?
This film is being heralded as the “return” of Eddie Murphy. By and large it’s true, though be prepared for the numerous (albeit entertaining) stereotypes that litter this film.
Ben Stiller is actually the lead character, with Eddie as his smart-talking crook sidekick. Ben plays Josh Kovacs, a dedicated Tower building manager who’s happy to play a subservient role to the rich residents. Eddie is Slide, a petty thief who hangs in Josh’s neighborhood. When seemingly beloved Penthouse inhabitant Arthur Shaw (an amazing Alan Alda) bilks the building’s employees out of their retirement funds, Josh bails Slide out of jail to enlist him in robbing Shaw of his secret stash of cash.
These heavy-hitters are rounded out by Casey Affleck (as Josh’s lazy brother-in-law and fellow Tower employee), Matthew Broderick (as Mr. Fitzhugh, a bankrupt Wall Street investor who’s squatting in the Tower), Tea Leoni (as Claire Denham, a tough but empathetic FBI agent), Michael Pena (as Enrique Dev’reaux, a former Burger King employee who’s aching to move up to the big leagues in the service industry) and Gabourey Sidibe (as Odessa Montero, a maid who happens to crack safes). It’s a helluva cast and everyone seems to have a blast thoroughly inhabiting their roles. It’s these adept actors – along with a fun and fluffy script – that keeps the movie rolling along at an entertainingly fast clip.
So, with all the fun, what could go wrong? Well, it’s impossible to see this film and not address a most salient issue: director Brett Ratner. (And you thought I was going to say “the economy.” Psych! But I’m getting to that in a bit…) Regardless of what you think of his skills, Ratner is a director that usually evokes strong feelings: either you love him or hate him, but you are thinking of him. A Film.com critic nicely sums up the allure of The Rat:
Brett Ratner is basically Michael Bay without the ambition. Both specialize in frat-boy-oriented movies full of noise, explosions, and references to testicles. But while Bay wants to make GIGANTIC movies that often wind up being awful, Ratner just wants to make BIG movies that usually end up mediocre. If you have a lot of resources but maybe not a ton of talent, Ratner’s path is the one to take… every now and then you’ll come up with something modestly enjoyable.
Brett lives large in the pantheon of douche-baggery, nestled comfortably between Bay and Justin Timberlake. This flick contains the usual Ratner swagger of a male-driven film with lots of loud music. However, as much as it pains me, I’ve got to give him props for actually showing some restraint. He may’ve struggled to dumb down the film, but was smart enough to ease up and let the script – not to mention Stiller and Murphy – do the heavy lifting for him. It pays off. The film is no Oscar contender (though, ironically, Murphy is the telecast’s 2012 host and Ratner is the director) but it is a ton of fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a theater where people were laughing out loud, slapping their knees, and verbally urging on the characters. However, thanks to Brett, I’ll never be able to look at a shrimp cocktail the same way ever again…
I was recently in NYC, where I threw aside all airs of “coolness” to snap this shot of Tower Heist promo in the subway. It got me some odd looks, believe me. It was this, or risk getting run over while trying to get a photo of one of the many cabs advertising the film. I also occupied Wall Street for a day, which was a pretty amazing experience – though I missed Kanye West. Ya can’t win ’em all!
Forgive me for creating a new rating, but I felt it necessary. The movie isn’t quite three beers, given how fun it is – but neither is it in solid two-beer territory. This is where the heavy stuff comes in and it’s worthy of a strong belt of your favorite liquor.
We live in a classist society where the never-ending discrepancy between rich and poor grows wider every day. You don’t have to look far to see the inspiration for Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson’s script – it’s calling to you as dedicated protestors continue to occupy Wall Street to fervently protest greed. Arthur Shaw may, or may not, get his comeuppance in the movie – as Ponzi scheme creep Bernie Madoff did in real life – but we’re constantly reminded that the wealthy often get off scot-free for their devastating “white collar” crimes.
The screenwriters are aware of current events, though they do their best to keep it light. The brief references to Robin Hood and Friar Tuck, as well as peasants fighting against feudal lords, pop up before settling back into a comedic groove. Ben Stiller gives the film heart as an earnest do-gooder – but it’s the equivalent of Kanye West showing up at Occupy Wall Street when you think about Stiller’s reported $15 million salary. While I’ve created a new rating, Tower Heist may’ve created a new genre: a comedy that’ll get you steaming mad if you think about it too much.
Brett Ratner and Ben Stiller, engaged in a class war of a different kind. [Photo Credit]
A plot that embraces a sign of the times while still remaining capable of making you laugh out loud. It’ll show you a good time before it shows you the door… $10 poorer.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a drink: every time there’s a reference to a cunning chess game.
Take a drink: every time you think, “God damn, it’s good to see Eddie Murphy.”
Take a drink: every time you want to punch a smug Arthur Shaw.
Take a drink: whenever a fellow audience member’s infectious laugh makes you smile.
Take a shot: when the realities of the economic subtext piss you off.
Surprisingly there are no extra scenes. The film ends when it ends, though it is worth it to stay for the credits if you wish to see the ironic roll call of the corporations that are thanked by the filmmakers.