Wednesday, 2 November 2011

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Tower Heist [Review]


Opinion: B

Although the film was blown out of proportion, Tower Heist did fulfill genre expectations in the second half of the film when the actual heist geared into plan and motion. Pacing was way off in the first half that confused audience if it was trying to be too serious with its set up and character development. Some might see it as a subtle reminder of the grave financial crisis a couple of years back when several found themselves in the same woes as those who lost their fortune to Wall Street swindlers in the film.


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.

Queens native Josh Kovacs (Stiller) has managed one of the most luxurious and well-secured residences in New York City for more than a decade. Under his watchful eye, nothing goes undetected. In the swankiest unit atop Josh’s building, Wall Street titan Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) is under house arrest after being caught stealing two billion from his investors. The hardest hit among those he defrauded? The tower staffers whose pensions he was entrusted to manage.

With only days before Arthur gets away with the perfect crime, Josh’s crew turns to petty crook Slide (Murphy) to plan the nearly impossible…to steal what they are sure is hidden in Arthur’s guarded condo. Though amateurs, these rookie thieves know the building better than anyone. Turns out they’ve been casing the place for years, they just didn’t know it.


It is difficult to discuss about the first half of the film to justify any entertainment value with it. We are treated to an opening hundred dollar (literally) overhead view of a rooftop pool before Director Brett Ratner (After the Sunset, Rush Hour) decided to introduce his character properly and perform some serious character development.

With Eddie Murphy inserted as brief incoherent ranting sequences in between Ben Stiller's work at the amazingly well-serviced condominium building, we get a lull in the film's pacing for the first half. For a moment, I was almost fooled into thinking that the film might actually be serious in portraying the Wall Street crisis woe in its glory for the audience's reflection.

Not until Murphy got his proper appearance in the middle of the film where all the fun truly began. Lightning-mouthed and crudely glib, Murphy showed no mercy to the recipient of his wise-ass tongue lashing, although he did occasionally subject himself to some unnecessary racial jokes. This highly reminded me of a decade before the current one, which was common in films back then.

One of the best moments in Tower Heist was the impromptu "test of valor and competency" where each of the newly roped-in novice was challenged to shoplift fifty dollars worth of item(s). Sometimes, it's the little small things that get to us more easily and effectively.

Seeing some overpaid comedians trying too hard might get us frowning instead.

Speaking of which, I personally expected more from an actor like Stiller. It was almost all too obvious that the scripting relied a lot on Stiller and Murphy's character to drive the film and thus witnessing the three supporting cast (especially Casey Affleck and Michael Pena) under a lot less limelight than they should be.

A pleasant surprise was noted in the performance by Alan Alda as the financial rogue Shaw. His demeanour throughout the film was exactly the way I would have imagined a guy of his calibre and nature to be.

Getting back to the heist. While it may be outrageously blown out of proportion in terms of plausibility (I'll not reveal much as specific heist details might spoil the fun and film for some) in the second half, it was much welcomed in a comedy caper film with a title like Tower Heist. The pacing went wildly on overdrive together with the influential original soundtrack by Christophe Beck (Red, Burlesque).

Besides the prior mentioned "test of valour and competency" scene, the final heist act would be the real redeeming quality of the genre film. A relatively good watch for a wide audience group, watching Tower Heist is like having a glass of wine.

It gets better with every sip as the fun really kicks in with the incremental alcohol effect towards the end.


(Preview screening courtesy of UIP Singapore and Omy.sg)


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