The Tower in Manhattan houses the swankest apartments at the highest prices and the Penthouse with its rooftop pool belongs to wealthy money man Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda). The dedicated staff who cater to every whim of every resident is led by building manager Josh Kovaks (Ben Stiller), who is shocked when Shaw is arrested for major fraud. He is even more shocked when he learns that the pensions he asked Shaw to invest on behalf of his fellow workers has gone with the rest of the millions. Josh gets some of his work mates together and enlists petty crook Slide (Eddie Murphy) to plan the nearly impossible: steal the $20 million they are sure is hidden in the heavily guarded Penthouse where Shaw is being held by an FBI team led by Special Agent Claire Denham (Tea Leoni).
Review by Louise Keller:
A conscientious team in the service industry joins forces with a petty thief in this delicious twist on a conventional heist caper. With stakes as high as the up-market New York skyscraper overlooking Central Park in which the action takes place, the screenwriters have concocted a breathtaking plot with scale and imagination involving an embezzler with a red Ferrari, a gang that looks as though they've climbed out of a licorice allsorts packet and New York's colourful annual Thanksgiving Parade spectacle, when the film's climactic scenes take place. Brilliantly executed with hilarious ideas and a first-class cast, Tower Heist is a sparkling and original caper with plenty of laughs and sure-fire entertainment value.
The striking aerial opening shot in which chess aficionado and Wall Street hotshot Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) is seen doing laps in a rooftop swimming pool whose floor is a replica of a hundred dollar bill, is indicative on many fronts. Money is the entrance key for all the well-to-do residents of The Tower, where unrivalled service is offered under the meticulous watch of its observant manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller). Mobile phones are silenced as par for the course and tips are not allowed. Everyday life runs like a well-oiled machine - until Shaw is placed under house arrest in his luxury penthouse for embezzling $2 billion from his investors. To make matters worse, the hard-working staff of The Tower, who trusted their retirement funds to Shaw, who also stand to lose their life savings.
When Kovacs and his colleagues decide to take the law into their own hands and break into Shaw's secret wall safe, they realise that as society's 'givers', the team needs a 'taker' to give them the required skill-set. Enter Slide (Eddie Murphy), a low-life street thief who talks at lightening pace and is a natural when it comes to taking what doesn't belong to him. I love the idea that Slide demands Kovaks and his scrupulously honest team prove the seriousness of their intentions by showing they are capable of stealing - with a shoplifting test. Stiller browses suspiciously in Victoria's Secret; Casey Affleck's Charlie admires earrings in a jewellery store; Michael Peña's Enrique tries on a pair of sports shoes; Matthew Broderick's recently evicted financial whiz Mr Fitzhugh is gauche as he tries on a sweater.
Of course nothing goes to plan: from the drugged chocolate cake with which Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe) tries to bribe a guard (who is allergic to chocolate) to the less than smooth big scale show-stopping scenario in which Kovaks and friends remove Shaw's prized red Ferrari from his living room that was once owned by Steve McQueen.
I won't divulge too much about what happens next, only to say that it involves some surprises, some eye-boggling action and bodies dangling high above the Thanksgiving Parade, where the thousands below (including floats with Joan Rivers, Kermit and Snoopy), are unaware of the high dramas above. Téa Leoni is nicely cast as the life-loving FBI agent who gets tipsy with Kovaks while playing everything by the book. Little does she realize that it her suggestion to rob Shaw (made in jest) that initially inspires Kovaks.
Stiller and Murphy make a fine comic team and the dynamic works well, not only between the two men, but with the entire cast, each of whom gets their moment to shine. New York looks great too, with the striking autumn colours in Central Park forming a dazzling palette on the city skyline.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A stinging and relevant comic heist caper movie, Tower Heist gathers up the bad news about giant Ponzi schemes that left investors defrauded along with the good news that justice somehow prevails. At least in the movies, which is a reflection of what SHOULD happen, after all. Alan Alda is a crucial part of the film's success, playing Arthur Shaw, the money manipulator who gets rich while his clients lose their life savings.
A lesser actor may have made Shaw a caricature or a boo-hiss villain of Music Hall proportions, but Alda plays it as genuine drama, thus ensuring we take the story seriously. Likewise all the cast, especially those whose savings are lost. In other words, here is a tragic story on which a comedic movie is built.
The screenplay is astutely written, with a totally plausible set up. Of course the heist itself is wildly improbable but it's daring, exciting and outrageous fun. As are the Oceans heist films ... The planning and anticipation are half the fun, the impossibility of the task the spice.
Eddie Murphy is the wild card, ideally cast as the petty crim with the big mouth, and his firecracker presence is balanced by a cast of excellent actors, not least Casey Affleck and Ben Stiller, and a wonderful performance from Tea Leonie as the FBI Agent who is more colourful than the stereotype.
Michael Pena is great value as a 'Mexican-Mohawk' and the newest & lowliest of the staff to join the hesit team, and Gabourey Sidibe (of Precious fame) is a wonderful casting idea as the Jamaican maid with a glint in her eye and a useful if illicit trade behind her.
The lifestyle within The Tower is economically portrayed, including the darker side of the tenants, like the pathetic and bankrupt Mr Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) who is about to be evicted, until he reluctantly joins forces with Josh and his team in the plan to steal Shaw's secret stash.
Brett Ratner has made a thoroughly entertaining heist movie with enough ballast to make it real, and also enough comedy to make it a great entertainment; escapism & entertainment with a capital E!
Published first in the Sun-Herald
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TOWER HEIST (M)
CAST: Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni, Stephen Henderson, Judd Hirsch, Michael Pena, Gabourey Sidibe
PRODUCER: Brian Grazer, Eddie Murphy, Kim Roth
DIRECTOR: Brett Ratner
SCRIPT: Ted Griffin, Jeff Nathanson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dante Spinotti
EDITOR: Mark Helfrich
MUSIC: Christoph Beck
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kristie Zea
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2011
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays in February, following a FREE introductory screening on February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.