Release Date: December 26
A film with Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphie and Matthew Broderick about average working Joes robbing a high security building. It’s enough to tickle the funny bone, but beware. Tower Heist is not the comedy you’re expecting.
Stiller is Josh Kovacs, the building manager of a New York high rise catering to the wealthy elite. In its uppermost penthouse resides Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), one of the financial district’s most illustrious sons. However Wall Street’s golden boy loses his sheen when he is arrested by the FBI and charged with massive fraud. It would just be another cautionary tale from the Big Apple except that Kovacs invested his employees’ pension fund with the bankrupt financier and they’re now as penniless as he is smug – because the federal authorities have no idea where he’s hiding his loot. Desperate to recover their money, Kovacs enlists the aid of an odd assortment of Tower friends including petty crook Slide (Eddie Murphy) and Mr Fitzhugh, the homeless stockbroker (Matthew Broderick), and hatches a plan to crack a hidden safe in Shaw’s residence.
At this point readers will have no idea whether Tower Heist is A Fish Called Wanda, Oceans 11 or Ronin. Don’t be distressed – neither did director Brett Ratner. There are moments of comic brilliance when Stiller and Murphy indulge their personal styles – Stiller bumbles, Murphie turns a shade blue – but their jokes are broken up by too many attempts to play straight drama. Stiller tries to make Kovacs too much of a genuine hero, even a genius matched against Shaw’s malevolence. Broderick looks set to play the goofy broker, but ends up pleading for his life while suspended over distant city streets. And even Kovacs’ crackpot plan to hand over his workers’ life savings is spoiled by the decision to show one of them attempting to commit suicide by stepping in front of train. Tower Heist is a film that aimed at much and achieved … some of it. It’s greatest accomplishment will probably be earning a place on a question card in a quiz game about, ‘… that film Stiller and Murphie did together in 2011.’
But if you’re stuck in a group bent on seeing it, you can still sift through the script and find at least one nugget worth talking about. Shaw pontificates about a turn of the century chess game in which Frank Marshall deliberately lost his queen in order to place himself in a winning position. The sacrifice was so startling that his opponent was unable to recover, and the move became famous as ‘The Marshall Swindle’. Kovacs carries off much the same manouvre, daring prison in order to trap Shaw. It hardly makes for a satisfying or even amusing ending, but it creates a situation that human beings have come to understand and admire: the innocent man gives up everything in order to allow his friends to reap a rich reward. Sound familiar? At Christmas time it’s not a bad opportunity to ask your friends if they can think of a figure who achieved the same thing, but on a vastly different scale.