Monday, 30 April 2012

Movie Review: Tower Heist

I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of director Brett Ratner in any way, his movies have never been that great and in any material I’ve read about him he always came across as, well, kind of a dick. So needless to say I wasn’t in a hurry to go out and see ‘Tower Heist’, his latest film. But I do love a heist movie (this one even had it in the title, good sign right!?) so I relented eventually. Even if Ratner did create an abomination such as ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’.

The story of ‘Tower Heist’ follows Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller), the building manager of the most elite apartment building in New York, when he and his fellow employees lose their pensions in the Ponzi Scheme of a wealthy resident they decide to take matters into their own hands and pull a heist on their thief and take back their stolen savings.

The movie is a fun to watch, plain and simple, when you come to a film like this one you aren’t expecting ‘The Godfather’ so don’t expect any deep symbolism or gritty characters, simply enjoy the banter between the likable cast and chuckle at the funny moments that break whatever “tension” appears in this formulaic heist film which has a feel good undertone of “getting back at the 1%”.

In times of such economic strife and hatred for the “Fat cats” of Wall Street it makes sense to have a villain such as Shaw. A man who, after the first 40 or so minutes, is about as evil as the writers could make him without having to feature pauses in his speech for him to manically cackle or twirl his moustache. The character begins as a very likable man who has built his empire from humble roots and keeps himself on the same level as his employees, for a while I actually thought that they were going to make the character somewhat three-dimensional but unfortunately the uninspired writing of the film turns his character 180 degrees partway through the film, almost as if he was grotesquely becoming the villain the story requires of him. 

Although the character is lacking, Alan Alda still plays him very well.

The writing of this movie almost never allows the audience any sort of intellectual stimulation, instead opting for an unusual recurrence for jokes about testicles rarely seen outside of a film featuring Jonah Hill. Additionally there are quite a few story techniques (like the chess match between the main character and the antagonist) that feel shoehorned into the movie if not outright forced sometimes.

It’s not all negative though, I do feel that writing isn’t as paramount for a caper film such as this and the simplicity of its story-telling is a saving grace when it comes to the audience not having to overthink many of its outright ridiculous premises (particularly a car that is not only made out of solid gold but is also a perfect replica of one driven by the legendary Steve McQueen, I mean come on!).    

"How can I handle a heist on a day like today?"

This movie is a cast vehicle, there’s no denying it, it was an excuse to have a single movie that featured Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller and Matthew Broderick, to be honest I can’t really blame them because on paper that sounds like a great idea for a movie. But with this star power comes some consequences as I can imagine that a hefty majority of the film’s $85 million budget went into paying the fees of its big name cast leaving a somewhat hollow feeling in the finished product since there was seemingly no real passion for the source material to begin with.

Ben Stiller is as reliable as always playing a character type he has perfected, an ordinary everyman for the audience to relate with, Josh Kovacs is no exception and Stiller isn’t breaking any new ground for himself with the role. The standout performance of the movie is that of Eddie Murphy, it’s not a particularly big part nor is it that fantastically acted but Murphy is undoubtedly the best in the film playing the nefarious Slide. This role heralds a return to form for Murphy that is reminiscent of his earlier and ultimately better films before he “went Hollywood’, think more ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ and ‘The Nutty Professor’ rather than ‘Norbit’. Whilst its great to see Matthew Broderick return to comedic roles, he has no real significance in this story, his character Mr. Fitzhugh is given a short, vague introduction before promptly being relegated to secondary importance.

Slide crazy look No.12.

For a movie that spends a more than necessary length of time setting up the story it ends somewhat abruptly leaving a few plot lines left unresolved, now whilst I’m not saying this film suffered from being too short I do feel that the addition of a more detailed conclusion to some of its story arcs would have made for a more complete movie rather than the almost incomplete tale it ends as.

As a heist movie, ‘Tower Heist’ is not bad, it’s certainly enjoyable at a number of moments throughout and I would recommend it as one that is easily viewed. The story and the heist itself is nowhere near the standard of Ocean’s Eleven but its experienced cast and non-taxing plot carry it enough so that it can be considered perfectly watchable.

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