Many years ago there appeared an interesting sub-genre of the crime film that focused on “heists”. The idea was to show a group of people plan and then execute some kind of large scale robbery and then follow those individuals after the robbery. In the more “grim” films of the genre, we inevitably see how things unwind and how the criminals eventually get caught and/or killed. Examples of those films include The Asphalt Jungle, The Killing, and The Anderson Tapes. However, “lighter” takes on the heist film also started to appear, most notably the original Ocean’s 11 and the recent George Clooney/Brad Pitt remakes.
The lighter side of a heist film is again presented in 2011’s Tower Heist, a film starring, among others, Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, and Alan Alda. Directed by Brett Ratner, the film is light and breezy and if you think about certain things too hard it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (just how much weight can those elevators carry and just how far up do they go?). Nonetheless, Tower Heist is entertaining although, perhaps, ultimately forgettable.
The best thing about the film, in my opinion, is Alan Alda’s Arthur Shaw, the villain of the piece. As presented at the start of the film, Mr. Shaw’s a nice guy who our actual protagonist, Ben Stiller’s Josh Kovaks, likes and is very friendly with, to the point of playing chess with him over the internet. In the course time, however, Shaw’s arrogance and villainy are revealed, and while the movie never gets too “dark” in that respect, I found this slow reveal the best part of the film.
Now, for the elephant in the room: I know there are those who despise director Brett Ratner and, given some of the comments he’s made in interviews, I can’t entirely blame them. For what its worth, for about a nano-second back when he was in high school I knew, via my sister, Mr. Ratner. He came over to our house once or twice to hang out and seemed like a nice enough guy. Back then. Whether this makes my opinion of his work suspect is for you to decide when I say: His direction in Tower Heist is quite good. He keeps things moving and gets the most from his stars. The movie’s greatest flaw, as mentioned above, relates to some of the more…unbelievable…things that happen toward the movie’s climax.
Regardless, Tower Heist is an entertaining enough way to spend a couple of hours, should you be in the mood for a comic heist film.