Ben Stiller manages to portray a hyper, driven sort of guy in most of the films he’s featured in. Tower Heist, his most current outing, is no exception.
Here he plays Josh Kovacs, the manager of The Tower, an ultra-swank luxury hotel in New York’s Central Park.
As he rushes around, looking after a large staff and focusing on the most minute detail, he pays particular attention to the needs of Arthur Shaw, a high-rolling Wall Street investment counsellor who inhabits the Tower’s penthouse floor.
An affable, salt-of-the-earth sort of guy, played by film veteran Alan Alda, Shaw reminds the staff of his humble beginnings and his first real job, “shovelling horseshit at Aqueduct Raceway.”
When it appears that Shaw is being kidnapped one day in a laundry truck, Kovacs races after the vehicle, but FBI agents quickly arrive on the scene and arrest Shaw.
It turns out that the genial plutocrat has been fleeing the city, and is the perpetrator of a massive securities fraud, victimizing investors for millions of dollars.
The staff of the Tower soon learns its pension fund is one of the casualties of Shaw’s manipulations, after he promised he would triple the fund’s portfolio. Moreover, Kovacs sanctioned the investment.
When Shaw is released on $10 million bail, he is confined to his penthouse apartment under house arrest.
FBI agent Claire Denham, played by newcomer Tea Leoni, explains the terms of his arrest to him, and she’s startled to see that the millionaire has a 1962 red Ferrari parked in the middle of his living-room, 65 stories up, where it was transported after being taken apart and re-assembled piece by piece.
The Ferrari takes on its own dramatic role as events develop.
When it appears that there is little hope of recovering the staff’s pension fund money, Kovacs takes it upon himself to make up for his mistake.
Convinced that Shaw has money in his apartment in a hidden safe, he enlists the aid of Slide, a neighbourhood gangster played by Eddie Murphy.
He instructs Kovacs and a trio of the staff in the arts of thievery. They’re aided in their endeavours by housekeeper Odessa, played by Gabourey Sidibe, familiar to audiences from her Oscar-nominated title role in 2009’s Precious. She turns out to have hidden talents as an expert safecracker.
Murphy delivers an outstanding performance, as does Leoni, the FBI agent who is alternately obnoxious and endearing.
Halfway through, Tower Heist loses some of its comic appeal and gives way to being a caper film, as Kovacs and his crew of amateurs carry out their vengeance.
The robbery itself is rather implausible, and sketchy on plot-line details, but a willing suspension of disbelief will carry all but the most demanding audience along.
Tower Heist is an entertaining enough vehicle, with a talented ensemble cast that includes Matthew Broderick as a down-on-his-luck former Wall Street stockbroker who’s about to be evicted from his apartment, and is able to offer insights into Shaw’s operations.
As the Occupy movement grabs headlines worldwide, the film comes off inadvertently timely, with its overriding theme of a crew of ordinary working stiffs taking their revenge on the Bernie Madoff-like type who has swindled them.
Tower Heist plays at 7 p.m. and 9:10 p.m., with weekend matinees at 1 p.m. and 3:10 p.m. at the Yukon Theatre. It is rated PG for violence and coarse language.
Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.