ALBERTO PERUCCHINI sees crime comedy Tower Heist reach new heights of mediocrity.
Directed by Brett Ratner
The best thing about Tower Heist is that it delivers what’s on the tin. There’s a fancy NYC tower in it, and it’s the setting of a fairly unimpressive heist. Its quality beyond that simple standard of £9 decency is up for grabs. I left the cinema feeling thoroughly disappointed, thinking it a shameless waste of a stellar cast. A waste made worse considering the fun the script could have offered in our (pardon the media-speak) dire and troubled economic times.
The fairly basic plot is woven around the efforts of sacked building manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) to enact well-deserved payback upon magnificent bastard Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda): a billionaire and Madoff-copycat placed under house arrest in his top-floor suite. Alda’s suave character — definitely the film’s strongest performance — has Ponzi scheme’d away the tower’s employees’ pensions, with little chance of them ever being compensated. So Kovacs draws up a heist plan to find and rob the man’s secret stash under the nose of NYPD and FBI.
Tower Heist: Redefining extraordinary
In this noble enterprise riddled with boredom, Stiller, who is even more expressionless than in other recent performances, is supported by Slide, a hoodlum played by Eddie Murphy (remember him?), and ambiguously hindered in his justice quest by Téa Leoni (remember her?) as an FBI agent. The most enjoyable moments in this otherwise plain Ocean’s-wannabe definitely involve Murphy, and it does feel genuinely pleasant to see him act decently again. For the rest, you may want to save yourself the trouble and watch the trailer at the bottom of this review – all of the film’s good jokes are in it.
The biggest problem that Tower Heist has is that it hesitates too much between action and comedy to be efficient, and so it delivers neither. The characters, though nicely fleshed-out and belonging to an environment rarely explored on film (building management), never shine long enough for them to be either funny or appealing. And from the prologue onwards, you have the script’s structure etched onto your brain.
At one point Alan Alda’s character, commenting on his shameless breach of the social and economic contract with his employees, declares: “Sometimes I forget the rules.” Plot-wise, I wish Tower Heist’s scriptwriters had forgotten banalities as well, and delivered the original, impactful comedy which this fascinating era of social and financial crises rightly needs and deserves.