Director Brett Ratner hasn’t had what I would call a distinguished career. Other than the fun, but increasingly dumb, Rush Hour series the director’s filmography mostly contains movies which are best left forgotten.
However, at least for me, the true highlight of Ratner’s career was a heist film he made back in 2004 starring Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson, and Don Cheadle. After the Sunset isn’t a great film by any definition, but it is a pretty good heist flick that’s far more fun than it has any right to be.
When I heard Ratner was going to try his hand at another heist film I was cautiously optimistic. Sadly, Tower Heist, even with a pretty good cast and relatively low expectations, is something of a disappointment.
The movie stars Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Michael Peña, and Gabourey Sidibe as workers at a high-rise luxury apartment building in Central Park West. When Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), one of the buildings tennants and the man in charge of investing the workers’ pensions, is arrested by the FBI for running a ponzi scheme it hits close to home for everyone who works at the Tower. The fact that the man who has stolen their life savings has been sentenced to house arrest in his cushy penthouse (where they will have to continue serving him) does nothing to calm them.
Believing Shaw to have squirreled away some cash in his apartment, and taking a piece of advice from an FBI agent (Téa Leoni) in a way far from how it was intended, Josh Kovacs (Stiller) recruits his coworkers, a childhood acquaintance turned professional thief (Eddie Murphy), and a tenant (Matthew Broderick) of the apartment facing eviction, to rob the man who has stolen their life savings.
What follows is an occasionally interesting botched heist flick as the group of normal people try to stage one of the biggest heists the city has ever seen. Murphy’s involvement as the petty ante thief thrown up on a pedestal by a group of guys who have never even taken someone’s lunch money provides one or two funny moments, but ultimately underachieves (like so much of the film).
The robbery itself, which takes place during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, is by far the film’s best sequence. Sadly, even after the successful heist, the script finds a way to undercut the fun of a few normal working stiffs taking it to a Wall Street swindler with an anti-climactic final showdown between Stiller’s character and the FBI.
Tower Heist isn’t a bad film, but it is a below average heist flick that wastes far too much of its running time on the interactions between characters we’re never really given any reason to care about. Once the heist gets underway things start to pick up, but the film simply takes far too long to get going.
Released tomorrow on DVD and Blu-ray, the extras include two alternate endings, deleted scenes, a gag reel, a behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the film with interviews from the cast and crew, and commentary with Ratner, editor Mark Helfrich, and screenwriters Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson. The Blu-ray also includes the DVD and a digital copy of the film, Ratner’s video diary, BD Live bonus features, and Universal’s Second Screen features (allowing you to interact with the film through a tablet or computer) to learn more about the script, music, and storyboards used for the movie.
[Universal Pictures, Blu-ray $34.98 / DVD $29.98]