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TOWER HEIST
Author: JoAnne Hyde
November 3, 2011
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SYNOPSIS: Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy lead an all-star cast in Tower Heist, a comedy caper about working stiffs who seek revenge on the Wall Street swindler who stiffed them. After the workers at a luxury Central Park condominium discover the penthouse billionaire has stolen their retirement, they plot the ultimate revenge: a heist to reclaim what he took from them.

Tower Heist -- directed by Brett Ratner -- offers some real laughs and some hair-raising stunts for film audiences who are surely craving entertainment after a string of so-so (and just plain bad) films of late. What a relief to finally leave a theater smiling instead of confounded or disappointed. Sure, it strains credibility from time to time, but you’re not seeing this film for realism or drama. You’re seeing the film for an excellent cast doing what they do best -- showing you a good time!

Ben Stiller portrays Josh Kovacs, the manager of a high-dollar, high-rise condo building in Manhattan called The Tower (The Trump Tower doubles for the property in the film). Kovacs takes great pride in managing a dedicated staff that caters to every whim of the wealthy, picky residents. Occupying the penthouse is Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), a Bernie Madoff-type investor who we later learn has lost the pension fund of The Tower employees after Kovacs persuaded them to invest with Shaw. Shaw had promised to triple their money as only a swindler of his magnitude can. Rounding out the group of employees who will become Kovac’s “gang” are his brother-in-law, concierge Charlie (Casey Affleck), new hire Enrique (Michael Pena), maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe), and beloved doorman Lester (Stephen Henderson). Added to the group will be the hapless Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), a former broker with Merrill-Lynch whose unit has been foreclosed on and who is being evicted.

The catalyst that leads straight-arrow Kovacs to consider crime occurs when Kovacs finds out that Lester has not just lost his pension, he had also invested his life savings with Shaw and is now fundamentally broke.

Eddie Murphy plays Slide, a small-time hood who lives on the same street in Queens as Kovacs. Every morning, as Kovacs walks to the subway station, Slide verbally harasses him, and one day, Kovacs sees Slide being arrested and carted off to jail. So when he needs a “consultant” for how to commit a robbery, he turns to Slide and bails him out of jail.

It seems that along the way, Kovacs has gained some valuable information from Special Agent Claire Denham (Tea Leoni), the leader of the FBI team investigating Shaw. She’s all about the job, but obviously sympathizes with the now pension-less Tower employees. She makes an off-hand comment that “these guys” -- meaning swindlers like Shaw -- always have an escape fund, but her team has not been able to find it. When Kovacs asks how much, she says that it’s usually at least $20,000,000.

Kovacs immediately thinks he knows where it might be hidden – hence the “tower heist” idea is born. Now the fun begins as Slide tries to teach the “gang” how to be criminals.

Ben Stiller, who’s usually the comic, plays it mostly straight in the story line. He has a few over-the-top minutes -- if you’ve seen the television trailer, you’ve seen him smashing up Shaw’s car. Eddie Murphy has all the fun as he broadly plays his character for laughs. That’s what he does best and Stiller makes a surprisingly good straight man to counter Murphy’s high-jinks. Alda, who’s always excellent, makes Shaw a charming, remorse-less snake, and Tea Leoni unexpectedly provides one of the funniest scenes in the film. I had just one teeny problem with the ending. Let’s just say that almost all of the characters get what they deserve. I’ll leave it at that and you can see whether or not you agree after you’ve seen the film -- which I recommend that you do!

GRADE: A-

JoAnne Hyde Likes film.
She likes to write.
So she combines those two loves by reviewing films for BOF

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