As comedy capers go, this battle-of-wits satisfies, primarily because it’s more caper than comedy.
Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) manages one of New York’s most luxurious residences, The Tower (think Trump Tower). Dutifully determined to please its owner, Wall Street tycoon Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), he is meticulous about every detail – until selfish, arrogant Shaw is arrested for masterminding a Ponzi scheme that swindled $2 billion from his shareholders (think Bernie Madoff). Since Kovacs asked Shaw to invest the Employees’ Pension Fund, he feels personally responsible for the financial losses of everyone on his staff.
That’s why he’s determined to steal back greedy Shaw’s $20 million stash. Problem is: Shaw has been placed under house arrest and his penthouse apartment is guarded by an FBI squad, headed by tough Special Agent Claire Denham (Tea Leoni). So Kovacs assembles an amiable, if eclectic team that includes expectant father Charlie (Casey Affleck), the concierge; Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), a bankrupt, recently evicted banker; cheerful elevator operator Enrique Dev’Reaux (Michael Pena); about-to-retire doorman Lester (Stephen McKinley Henderson); and Odessa (Gbourney Sidibe), a feisty, flirtatious Jamaican maid. With their varied skill-sets, they’re familiar with all the intricacies of The Tower. But since no one knows exactly how to execute a heist, Shaw recruits rude, confrontational Slide (Eddie Murphy), an experienced thief who, coincidentally, grew up in the same Queens neighborhood that he did.
Predictably, as the loopholes in their plan become larger, the tension mounts and there are some unexpected twists that don’t unravel until close to the conclusion.
Written by Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson, based on a far-fetched story by Adam Cooper, Bill Collage and Ted Griffin, it’s directed by Bret Ratner and superbly lensed by cinematographer Dante Spinote, who lenses a prized, 1963 Ferrari dangling from dizzying heights and dazzling glimpses of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. While Stiller’s straight man propels the plot, each cast member has memorable moments, particularly Alda and Murphy.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Tower Heist” is a slick 7, a smart, timely, topical revenge riff.