Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

"Tower Heist" Is a Celebration of How Much Money It Will Make. Here Are Some Alternatives.

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire November 3, 2011 at 2:13AM

It's harder to imagine a meatier -- and more wasted -- ensemble than what Brett Ratner has at his disposal in "Tower Heist." In theory, what we have here is a potentially entertaining payback story about blue-collar New Yorkers who unite against the affluent resident (Alan Alda) of a Manhattan high-rise, plotting to steal his riches back after he destroys their earnings with a Ponzi scheme. It's only a mild spoiler to mention that they get the job done.
1

It's harder to imagine a meatier -- and more wasted -- ensemble than what Brett Ratner has at his disposal in "Tower Heist." In theory, what we have here is a potentially entertaining payback story about blue-collar New Yorkers who unite against the affluent resident (Alan Alda) of a Manhattan high-rise, plotting to steal his riches back after he destroys their earnings with a Ponzi scheme. It's only a mild spoiler to mention that they get the job done.

But the real theft involves moviegoers' wallets, which are bound to open up this weekend in hopes of it being a better movie. The release of "Tower Heist" on Friday puts Ratner's Hollywood domination in focus and creates the opportunity to consider some alternatives.

Led by committed building manager Josh (Ben Stiller), the staff in "Tower Heist" includes several generations of name talent: Michael Peña, Casey Affleck and Gabourey Sidibe bring the youth contingency, Stiller and Matthew Broderick round out the fortysomethings and Eddie Murphy (who turned 50 in April) looms just above them as the shifty thief Josh hires to help with the heist. Téa Leoni plays an aggressive FBI agent simultaneously committed to taking down Alda's character while inexplicably falling for Josh's off-putting charms. Among the grey-haired veterans, Alda has company from Judd Hirsch in a minor role.

These are actors who could take a glass of water and make it funny, charming or profound at will, if the material allows. "Tower Heist" mostly holds down such possibilities with a plot lifted from "Ocean's Eleven" and only occasionally enlivened by the build-up to the big finale.

There is a certain large-scale Hollywood charm, mainly in the cockamamie action sequences; among these, a climax set during Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade features the same goofy slapstick and daring stuntwork that made Ratner's "Rush Hour" franchise a blockbuster hit. Still, "Tower Heist" fails to become anything more than a mild guilty pleasure -- the modus operandi of Ratner's oeuvre.

Ratner supposedly chose Murphy to host the Oscars after making this film, but the movie feels like an audition for the job. To be fair, Ratner has made worse movies equally poised for major box office returns, but nothing matches the smugness on display here. While mildly funny at times, the plot is wildly inconsistent, at first treasuring the workers' struggles and then just celebrating the art of the steal.

In theory, and for some parts of its solid first act, "Tower Heist" taps into the zeitgeist by channeling the rage currently epitomized by the Occupy Wall Street. Those seeking a more perceptive look at the battles of less fortunate and unemployed members of society should look no further than "Take Shelter," Jeff Nichols' startling parable in which Michael Shannon plays a broke family man plagued by visions of the apocalypse. Shannon's phenomenal performance perfectly evokes the sense of confusion that accompanies any personal crisis, economic or otherwise -- although, unlike "Tower Heist," it's not remotely funny.

For that outlet, however, there's another cure: Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki's deadpan near-masterpiece "Le Havre," also out now, harkens back to his 1980's-era "Proletariat Trilogy" with an alternately poignant and cheery adventure about an aging shoe shiner committed to helping a young illegal immigrant evade the police. Kaurismaki's sympathy for sad, alienated men and women from working-class backgrounds makes his filmmaking more relevant than ever before.

Of course, some audiences would rather go to the movies to forget about these things and "Tower Heist" gives them the option of pretending that a happy ending is around every corner. Ratner's film enables that delusion, but there's a superior ensemble piece currently in theaters that dismantles it. "Margin Call" is a chronicle of the financial collapse almost entirely set in a single office. The cast features a half dozen first-rate performances from a similarly broad spectrum, from Zachary Quinto to Kevin Spacey. With its morbid portrayal of a corrupt investment bank on the brink of screwing over its clients, "Margin Call" puts a chilling face on corporate greed. It's not a whole lot better than "Tower Heist," but at least somewhat closer to the truth.

This article is related to: Reviews






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More