Tower Heist | Film review
Brett Ratner’s old-school heist flick is designed to steal your money.
Brett Ratner does not make movies, he makes Big Macs: disposable quick fixes, low in nutrition yet high in calories, and predestined to sell in the billions. (He may view that last part as a compliment. It isn’t meant as such.) You could chalk it up to just giving the multiplex crowd what it wants, but the problem isn’t that Ratner makes action comedies or buddy-cop flicks or big franchise blockbusters—all easy targets for critic-corps railing but crucial to a well-rounded cinephile’s diet. It’s that he has an uncanny knack for amping up the energy level and easy laughs while leaving out any sense of popcorn-fueled fun. Never mind the pandering; these flailing too-giant-to-fail films have no idea how to be entertaining.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Ratner’s attempt to do an old-school heist film, complete with celebrity firepower and an early-’70s-thriller score. (Christophe Beck’s lite-funk soundtrack doesn’t tip its hat to Bullitt’s Lalo Schifrin so much as tilt an entire haberdashery in the composer’s direction.) After a Wall Street fat-cat tenant scams employees of a luxury apartment tower, the building manager (Ben Stiller), some coworkers and a thief (Eddie Murphy, in manic 48 Hours mode) decide to pull a Robin Hood and steal this penthouse occupant’s stashed cash. Class rage, comic geniuses, the built-in pleasures of watching clockwork schemes set into motion: Ratner treats all of these elements as if they’re gratuitous. To him, they’re merely excuses to get viewers from one empty sensation spike to the next; even the heist itself feels like a distraction rather than a narrative destination. A set piece involving a skyscraper and a sports car proves he can induce sweaty palms, but one nail-biting moment and some vintage Murphy mouthiness won’t keep you from feeling ripped off.