Netflix UK film review: Tower Heist
Ivan Radford | On 19, Dec 2013
Director: Brett Ratner
Cast: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Alan Alda, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick
Watch Tower Heist online in the UK: Netflix UK / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Google Play
Benjamin Franklin’s eyes stare at us. The cold, unblinking gaze of a 100 dollar bill. Then, the camera zooms out to reveal old Frankle’s actually a picture on the bottom of a swimming pool. A rooftop swimming pool. A rooftop swimming pool in The Tower, a luxury slice of real estate that your average Tory would sell their stuffed swan to get into for one night. It’s a great opening shot. Witty, unexpected, punchy – and heaps better than the 104 minutes that follow.
Josh Kovacs (Stiller) runs The Tower. He’s a nice guy, who gets on well with the staff, including Casey Affleck’s brother-in-law concierge, and is very good at brown-nosing penthouse owner Arthur Shaw (Alda). He’s the guy with the swimming pool. But it turns out that Shaw has done a Bernie and Madoff with the staff pensions. It’s bad news for one impoverished evictee (a dishevelled Matthew Broderick). “I’m thinking of becoming a male prostitute,” he says, straight-faced in his dressing gown. But Kovacs hatches a better plan: a heist. On the tower. A tower heist.
It’s a good set-up, given the number of struggling working class people trying to pay their bills and support their families. Who doesn’t want to see Ben Stiller break into a rich bloke’s flat and steal his Ferrari? But this is hardly Ocean’s Eleven. Playing the break-in for laughs instead of thrills, Ratner’s drags like a toy monkey on a cigarette.
The cast aren’t too shabby. Alda minces it up as the wealthy villain, while Stiller’s lead is likeable and knows how to banter. But the script hasn’t got a clue. “We don’t know how to steal!” Broderick whines, enjoying his role of token downbeat loser. “I know a guy who does,” replies Stiller, before finding the nearest black guy (Eddie Murphy). A swift training montage follows, while Murphy talks quickly, Stiller steals some underwear, and everyone pretends to be planning something clever.
Of course, none of it goes smoothly. It should be funny, witnessing the slapstick chaos unfold, but while Ratner’s camera can do glitz and spectacle well enough, his team of five writers (including Ocean’s Ted Griffin) can’t get the tone right. They miss gags, scupper tension and forget the brazen anger established by that opening shot. By the halfway mark, they can’t even generate excitement from a car hanging out of a 30-storey window.
Ratner, remember, is the man who gave us Rush Hour and knows how to have fun with a fast-talking odd couple, but Stiller and Murphy chug comfortably along, only producing a couple of giggles. At one point, Noah Baumbach was apparently down to do some rewrites on the film. If Tower Heist had more of his bite, the topical theme might have really stood out. As it is, you’ll forget most of it before you hit the stop button.
Tower Heist is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.