Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw Reviews Tower Heist

Tower Heist brings together an unorthodox cast of performers, but the biggest focus is undoubtedly on Eddie Murphy, who is officially making a return to more adult comedy, rather than the family-friendly fare he’s been pushing out for the last decade (with the notable exception of his Oscar-nominated performance in Dream Girls). But with a cast this eclectic, a heist plot which can easily unravel if not conceived right, and  love-to-hate-him director Brett Ratner calling the shots, is Tower Heist a worthy comedy/caper flick?

Ben Stiller plays Josh Kovacs, manager of “The Tower,” one of Manhattan’s most luxurious apartment complexes (think Trump tower), and home to billionaire finance guru Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda). Kovacs has been a loyal and dedicated serviceman for years, so he takes it pretty hard when Shaw is busted in an FBI sting for trying to flee from some impending felony fraud charges. The situation is especially sticky since Kovacs trusted Shaw to invest the pensions of the entire Tower staff – an investment which ultimately goes bust, along with all of Shaw’s dealings. When he’s informed by brass-balled FBI agent Claire Denham (Téa Leoni) that there is little chance of recovering the lost pensions, Kovacs decides he must make amends by stealing the millions that Shaw supposedly has stashed in his penthouse.

However, Kovacs and his friends are not crooks, so they seek out the tutelage of a real crook to get the job done. Enter “Slide” (Murphy), a two-bit con man and thief who agrees to help the ragtag group of disgruntled wage slaves once he learns how much money is at stake. But as with any heist, there are twists and turns and betrayals to settle before anybody can walk away alive, free, and with the money in hand. And when Arthur Shaw sets his sights on revenge, Kovacs learns that the only thing more dangerous than a desperate man, is a powerful one.

In short: Tower Heist is a carefree popcorn movie ride that succeeds in being fun, often funny, and is generally very enjoyable – so long as you don’t look too hard at the plot and all of the many, many, holes that riddle it. Typically, a heist movie has to be somewhat believable in its execution of the actual heist, and offer a few tricks of misdirection and surprise along the way. Upon close inspection, very little of what happens in Tower Heist‘s third act can be construed as “believable,” the misdirection is pretty transparent, and the “surprises” will have you laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of it all. While these glaring issues would be deal-breakers in most other films, in Tower Heist they take a back seat to general sense of fun the movie offers.

The cast of 'Tower Heist' get ready for the job.

Ratner keeps the film moving at a nice steady pace, and scene to scene, the movie tends to keep the viewer engaged and smiling. (There are also some fun nods and homages to other films – for instance, see if you can spot the twisted Ferris Bueller reference.) Ratner also has a penchant for odd-couple casting (for example, Rush Hour stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker), and on paper, a cast that consists of Stiller, Murphy, Alda, Leoni, Casey Affleck, Michael Peña, Precious star Gabourey Sidibe and Matthew Broderick (of all people) would seem pretty strange. However, this eclectic group has great chemistry and keep things light and humorous with sharp banter and funny character interactions. While the veteran comedians keep themselves relatively restrained, it’s Sidibe who gets to let loose and play things over-the-top as a Jamaican maid/safe-cracker who’s brought in on the heist. She’s wonderfully funny, and demonstrates a new side of the young Oscar-nominated performer. Broderick is clearly the odd man in the bunch, but even he still solicits a good amount of laughs. Nobody in the cast is wasted.

However, it’s Murphy that most people are going to wonder about. In the years since he turned to family films, the once-revered comedian has gone from foul-mouthed funny man to a walking caricature who is all hyper-exaggerated expressions and loud talk. Well, the exaggerated expressions and loud talk are still in effect here, but what Murphy manages to do is turn Slide into an actual character, and not just some hollow stereotype. There’s range and depth to who Slide is (an unapologetic crook) and Murphy keeps him just shy of the line between funny and annoying. Better yet, the actor is more of team player in this film, allowing his co-stars to carry some of the comedic weight instead of trying to ham it up all on his own. The interplay between Murphy and Stiller is especially well-balanced, which is somewhat surprising, considering how much emphatic energy each man commands on his own.

Alan Alda and Ben Stiller in 'Tower Heist'

Alan Alda plays a great villain who is all elitist menace hid behind a friendly grandpa facade and squinted eyes. Arthur Shaw is so laid back about his ruthlessness and godly sense of entitlement that it’s hard not to root against him. Alda also uses his acting talents to make Shaw into an actual character, instead of the caricature of a  snobby unethical businessman – which would have been so easy to do, given the current social climate. But Tower Heist wisely avoids social commentary, and simply settles for what is: a thin slice of escapist entertainment. 

If you’re the type of person who can only enjoy a heist flick if the logic of it holds up under close scrutiny and examination, then Tower Heist is definitely not for you. From the idea of average Joe’s invading one of the most heavily-guarded structures in a city constantly under surveillance, to the totally incomprehensible way that the actual robbery is pulled off, this is a film that doesn’t make a lick of sense, logically speaking. However, if you can accept that the outcome is not so much important as the journey to get there, then this film will offer simple and satisfying enjoyment between the top and bottom of your popcorn bag. It’s a good re-introduction for Eddie Murphy – let’s just hope he goes upward to bigger, better, and funnier things from here.

Check out the trailer for Tower Heist or rate the movie for yourself in our poll. If you want to discuss SPOILERS, please leave a comment in our Tower Heist Spoilers Discussion, rather than here.

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Tower Heist is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)