Tower Heist (2011) Directed by Brett Ratner
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Josh Kovacs: The average apartment in the Tower costs 5.6 million dollars. We have the best views, the most advanced security systems, but you know what these people are really buying?
Rick Malloy: White neighbors?
This is a story about the little people; the house elves who make magic behind the scenes. The Tower (it lost the "Trump" for the movie) is the richest piece of real estate in New York, and the reason they pay five million a year for an apartment is for the dedicated in depth care of the staff, headed by Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) who runs the down stairs more like a mother hen than a general. His crew is varied, from Lester (Stephen Henderson) the beloved doorman, to smooth Manuel (Juan Carlos Hernández) the head of security, to Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe) a Jamaican maid with a no prisoners attitude, to new hire elevator operator Enrique (Michael Peña) and Josh's distracted brother in law, Charlie (Casey Affleck) the concierge. The clients are just as varied, and Josh and his crew attend to their every need, from keeping their wives from meeting their girl friends, to suggesting the proper wine and cheese, to walking their dogs. Josh even plays chess with Mr. Shaw (Alan Alda) the investment banker who occupies the penthouse, and has mercy on Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) a bankrupt broker, arranging for elevator maintenance at the same time the police will be there to evict him. He genuine cares for all these people.
So when it looks like Mr. Shaw is being kidnapped, Josh literally puts his life on the line to stop it, like a chess knight, sacrificing itself to save the king, only to be clothes-lined by Special Agent Claire Denham (Téa Leoni). Shaw was not being kidnapped, he was trying to flee justice. Shaw is accused of embezzling all of his clients billions of dollars. And yes, Josh had asked him to manage the pension fund for the Tower too. It is all gone.
So, now Josh is in the very interesting position of tending to the needs of the man who swindled the life savings of everyone he works with, as Shaw enjoys the comfort of house arrest in his penthouse apartment.
Josh decides he is going to take it back. He knows from Agent Denham that Shaw has $20 Million stashed somewhere close. He thinks he knows where. And he recruits Charlie, Mr. Fitzhugh, and Enrique to find it. But a job like this needs a thief...a real thief. And Josh thinks he might know one...Slide (Eddie Murphy).
This is a comedy of errors, yes, but it plays much more like a chess game; there is attack, and counter attack. Josh and his crew are not professional thieves, but their skills allow them to fake it. Fitzhugh knows how the world of Alan Shaw works. Josh and Charlie have cased the building for ten years without realizing it, and Slide helps with the truly shady side of things. It is a crazy plan. The question is, is it crazy enough to work?
The movie has some flaws...some plot holes large enough to drive a Ferrari through, but it has some other qualities that make us willing to over look that. First, it has a great cast. I don't normally enjoy Ben Stiller movies, because I don't really like humiliation humor, but this time Ben is playing the hero, not the schlep the movie is about, and he turns in a solid performance without ever once entertaining the notion he might be Daniel Craig or Sly Stallone. The fear and humiliation humor was handled instead by Matthew Broderick; it was really great. He played Cameron this time, instead of Ferris Bueller. And what can you say about Gabourey Sidibe? Precious was not a fluke. The girl can act. The same for Téa Leoni, a consistently underestimated performer. But the real news on the acting front is that after an absence of many, many years, Eddie Murphy was back to play Eddie Murphy. Yes, apparently Mr. Murphy has realized that everything he touches does not turn to gold, so he actually worked at this role, falling back to the magic that made him Eddie Murphy in the first place.
It has a nice splash of romance, with Josh and Denham, a little humorous heat, with Odessa and Slide, it has a little action, a little adventure, and a big pay off.
Why does this movie resonate so very well? Well, its timing is great. While protesters Occupy Wall Street, and Bernie Madoff is still screamingly fresh in our minds. Our tax dollars went to bail out the banks who were too big to fail, and then they paid themselves billions of dollars in bonuses with those funds. I think the timing was perfect for a "the Little Guy robs the Crooked Banker back" kind of movie. It certainly warmed the cockles of my heart. But beyond that aspect there is another; Brett Ratner never let the action slide too far away. No one goes shooting two guns sideways while leaping through the air. It's not X-Men: Last Stand. Nor is it the overly complicated heist movie, say Ocean's Eleven, or better example, Prison Break. It is clever, and deceptive, but on a lower level. It's funny, but it doesn't try to be Rush Hour. This is a movie about the Little People, playing a game of Chess with the Big People, and the action, adventure, and comedy are just right for that concept. And just like a chess game, even the Grandmaster can fall if they don't see the fork coming. And they fork him really good.
Movie Mood: Feel-good Movie
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Nothing