Tower Heist is a cheap ride on the back of anger at the recession

Tower Heist (12A)

Director Brett Ratner

Starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, T�a Leoni and Alan Alda

105 mins


The perception of director Michael Bay as the personification of crass Hollywood commercialism seems to me to be grossly unfair. The man has a vision. It may be a dark, soulless vision but it is a vision nonetheless. He’s an Eisenstein nurtured by corporate culture rather than socialism and at least he doesn’t pretend to be an artist.

Beneath him are a whole layer of slapdash hacks whose artistic vision doesn’t extend beyond the beam of the headlights on their new Ferrari. Tussling with McG for the title of The Hack of All Hacks is Brett Ratner. He’s a man who will eulogise in interviews about 70s cinema and directors like Hal Ashby but he directs as though the company has just gone bankrupt and he’s been appointed by the receivers to complete the job as quickly and cheaply as possible.

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Neatly timed for the double dip, Tower Heist takes a cheap ride on the back of public resentment at big business.

Josh Kovacs (Stiller) is the general manager of a luxury apartment block in New York. Staying in the penthouse suite is investment banker Arthur Shaw (Alda) who is arrested for massive fraud (does casting arch-liberal Alda as a businessman count as a spoiler?). Shaw has lost millions, including the entire pension fund. So Kovacs heads a ragtag group of employees to steal millions which they believe he has locked in a safe in his suite.

Ridiculous plan

The plot is far-fetched and, although this doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal breaker, it is unimaginatively ridiculous and the film isn’t funny or gripping enough to cover for it. You hang in there hoping that the heist will save it but that’s even more ridiculous than the rest of it. The cunning plan seems to be to get in and out of the building through any one of the enormous plot holes.

Stiller is one of that tranche of comedy leading men (other examples are Steve Carell, Jason Bateman) who resemble downsized double acts, the cutbacks leaving only the straight man to hot desk both roles. They’re proficient but you need someone else to make a movie really fly. Unfortunately, Murphy’s performance is a shadow of the ones which made him great, delivered without spirit or gusto.