|Review: Tower Heist|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Tuesday, 01 November 2011 12:57|
Director: Brett Ratner
Benjamin Franklin’s eyes stare at us. The cold, unblinking gaze of a 100 dollar bill. Then, the camera zooms out to reveal old Frankle’s actually a picture on the bottom of a swimming pool. A rooftop swimming pool. A rooftop swimming pool in The Tower, a luxury slice of real estate that your average Tory would sell their stuffed swan to get into for one night. It’s a great opening shot. Witty, unexpected, punchy - and heaps better than the 104 minutes that follow.
Josh Kovacs (Stiller) runs The Tower. He’s a nice guy, who gets on well with the staff, including Casey Affleck’s brother-in-law concierge, and is very good at brown-nosing penthouse owner Arthur Shaw (Alda). He's the guy with the swimming pool. But it turns out that Shaw has done a Bernie and Madoff (ho ho) with the staff pensions. It’s bad news for one impoverished evictee (a dishevelled Matthew Broderick). “I’m thinking of becoming a male prostitute,” he says, straight-faced in his dressing gown. But Kovacs hatches a better plan: a heist. On the tower. A tower heist.
It’s a good set up, given the number of angry poor people around these days. Who doesn’t want to see Ben Stiller break into a rich bloke’s flat and steal his Ferrari? But this is hardly Ocean’s Eleven. Playing the break-in for laughs instead of thrills, Ratner's film is dull and it drags.
The cast aren’t too shabby. Alda minces it up as the wealthy villain, while Stiller’s lead is likeable and knows how to banter. But the script hasn’t got a clue. “We don’t know how to steal!” Broderick whines, enjoying his role of token downbeat loser. “I know a guy who does,” replies Stiller, before finding the nearest black guy (Murphy). A swift training montage follows, while Murphy talks quickly, Stiller steals some underwear, and everyone pretends to be planning something clever.
Of course, none of it goes smoothly. It should be funny, witnessing the slapstick chaos unfold, but while Ratner’s camera can do glitz and spectacle well enough, his team of five writers (count ‘em, five - including Ocean's Ted Griffin) can’t get the tone right. They miss laughs, scupper tension and forget the brazen anger established by that opening shot. By the halfway mark, they can’t even generate excitement from a car hanging out of a 30-storey window.
Ratner, remember, is the guy who gave us Rush Hour. He clearly knows how to have fun with a fast-talking odd couple but Stiller and Murphy chug comfortably along, only producing a couple of laughs. At one point, Noah Baumbach was apparently down to do some rewrites on the film. If Tower Heist had more of his bite, the topical theme could have really stood out. As it is, you'll forget most of it before you get up from your seat.
Tower Heist isn't a terrible mess, but it's not a lot of fun. By the halfway point, you'll wish they made Towering Inferno instead.
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