There’s only one thing worse than a bastard, and that’s a millionaire bastard. To be even more precise, a millionaire bastard who’s stolen everyone’s savings. In the middle of a recession. And one bloke was only a couple of months away from retirement. What a bastard. Anyway Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy and Brett Ratner are here and their job is to take this smug oligarch down and make a half-decent comedy in the process. This may sound simple enough but it’s a task that has proved beyond this lot for a couple of years, or in Murphy’s case, over a decade. Yet for all the genre mash-ups going on here, Tower Heist works.
Based around the community of a lavish apartment complex-cum-hotel, Ratner’s light-hearted romp starts with grey tycoon Arthur Shaw doing a Madoff with the pensions of the staff who open his doors, do his laundry and collect his mail at the eponymous tower. As staff manager and the man who decided to put everyone’s cash in Shaw’s care, Stiller takes it upon himself to get the money back. As such when love interest good cop Tea Leoni explains that he’s probably got a load of cash lying around somewhere, he suspects that it’s in his penthouse and hatches a plot to steal it.
After recruiting fellow staff-members Casey Affleck (disillusioned), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Michael Peña (new boy) and long-term resident on the verge of being evicted Matthew Broderick (getting on) his team of thieves is complete, that is until someone wisely points out that none of them have ever stolen anything.
Enter Eddie Murphy, a fast-talking criminal called Slide whom Stiller knows from their nursey days (“I remember you now! You’re the boy who had seizures all the time! It was very frightening..”) and so on. Without the pressure of leading this ragtag ensemble, Murphy shines and his wacky facials and language provide excellent support to Stiller who plays it relatively straight but still manages to get some fine laughs. The scene in which he told everyone to “address the elephant in the room” only to be attacked by Sidibe was excellent. Not subtle but a great gag.
Yet Tower Heist‘s real strength lies in its consistency and Ratner has done a fine job of spreading the material with expertise. Unlike many other comedies of this ilk, this one doesn’t run out of steam as we approach the finale. Screwball distractions are mixed with a pretty tight screenplay to keep this ticking over nicely throughout, making the final result much better than many will have anticipated.