By Drew Turney
Turns out there’s a pretty good director in Brett Ratner struggling to get out. Maybe he just needs to stay away from slavishly comic action movies, because ”Tower Heist” is an effective heist thriller with some funny moments.
A crew of misfit staff take care of an exclusive New York apartment tower, catering to the every whim of very rich clients under the watchful eye of building manager Josh (Stiller, playing it very straight as he sometimes does).
When the richest resident, businessman Shaw (Alda) is swept up by the FBI in a Madoff-style white collar crime sting, Josh discovers that all the pensions the staff invested with Shaw have disappeared.
While he slowly forms a relationship with the lively agent leading the case (Leoni), Josh hatches a scheme with his inner circle of accomplices. The missing millions are supposedly hidden somewhere in Shaw’s apartment in cash and he wants the money back. The only thing they don’t have is any skills as robbers, so Josh bails his shady neighbour Slide (Murphy) out of prison, recruiting him to lead the heist.
It starts off funnier than it ends up, Ratner and his writers jettisoning most of the comedy for thrills during the actual heist.
Most of the cast do their thing very well, especially Murphy, who can do the trash talking bad guy blindfolded but who let the ”Beverly Hills Cop” persona go decades ago to do kids’ comedies. Leoni too is a standout, making the character of FBI agent Claire really come off the page with her very own panache. The story is a bit of a mish-mash of ideas and asides, none of them very distinctive, and things go in some strange directions. But Ratner has a good sense of the scope of the cinema screen and it’s worth seeing from some thrills as well as the laughs earlier on.
There’s a commentary, an alternate ending, deleted/alternate scenes and some making-of featurettes.