Movie Review: Tower Heist- Brett Ratner’s Mediocre Ability as a Director Diminishes Any Sort of Relatability in this Predictable and Mindless Action Comedy

No matter how much the overly critical complain and how much it pains them to admit it, there really is a need for escapist entertainment or mindless, zero-sum entertainment.  When done correctly these type of films can alleviate the pains, discomforts, and burdens in our lives by giving us a sense of satisfaction, either utilizing humor or sympathetic characters that relate to our experiences. Unfortunately the market for these types of films have been dominated by simpletons who can’t necessarily write a basic witty script to give us the  minimal humor we expect or fail to tap into that sense of sympathy that could give us something to willingly follow. What we have are filmmakers who mistake mindless entertainment with their inevitable outcome of diminishing your brain capacity. One of those filmmakers is Brett Ratner who brings you his latest Ocean’s 11/Italian Job inspired action comedy entitled Tower Heist. Ratner’s Tower Heist is about a group of high-class service employees whose pensions are defrauded by a Bernie Madoff-esque character and then follows how they intend to amend their financial predicament at the expense of the billionaire. While it seems like an appropriate film for the financial times, the script deviates from sympathetic outreach to becoming an overly saturated, uncomfortably unfunny, and mediocre action film. It seems as though all the parts are there but not built in the right order for proper execution. But that’s Brett Ratner for you, the guy who single handedly ruined a perfectly sufficient series known to us as X-Men. Tower Heist becomes so incredibly predictable that the only thing unique about the film is that your brain begins to erase the experience as you’re watching it.

In heist films there is always a need for the audience to sympathize with the lead characters who are essentially committing a crime that needs to be justified for us to want them to succeed. There are always exceptions to the rules, such as John Huston’s Asphalt Jungle or Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing, but the intent of Tower Heist is obviously trying to connect with those feeling disenfranchised with the economic downturn. And in a sense it meets you half way in its sympathies. Certainly the characters work hard at their service job and seem relatable in every sense of the word, but that is only on the surface where Ratner feels he only needs to dwell. There are no deep character traits that make them dynamic personalities, but rather the familiar personalities of the actors on the screen. It works when you’re doing the minimal work in screenwriting, yet it doesn’t give you the full impact on the motivations behind the character’s decision making. When you have the personalities of Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller then it can be drastically hit or miss (Norbit anyone?), and when your script isn’t strong by itself it leaves a lot on them to shoulder the burden. They do a relatively decent job though they’re both not even close to being at their best, though for Murphy that’s 15 to 20 years ago. The other characters in the cast are slightly better but that’s probably because they’re actually credible actors, including Casey Affleck, Michael Pena, and Matthew Broderick. But what always aggravates an audience is when you feel prophetic in terms of the heist’s mild twists and turns as you’re guessing what the script has prepared for you 10 steps in advance. Tower Heist has an appropriately given bland name because it gives you exactly what you need to know about the film, which is that it’s a heist movie, it’s in a tower, and thus it will be a predictable and mental straining experience. Even with Ratner adding CGI and action sequences in what should have been a cotton candy version of Riffifi the film is still lackluster and intensely forgettable.

It’s truly amazing how quickly Hollywood rewards the once in a while hit movie makers such as Ratner while never punishing them if they ever make a financial flop. That’s all the Michael Bays, the Roland Emmerichs, and the Brett Ratners are good for Hollywood and that is making the product line of easily digestible cinematic junk. Sure sometimes it tastes good but it certainly isn’t any benefit to your emotional, physical, and mental health. Tower Heist gets the job done, meaning the script is a cake walk in simplistic character set ups, basic tactical planning, and lazy twists and turns but ultimately gets a plot down that makes sense and has some fun characters in the mix. But there is not a single use of dialogue that will be quotable, a single character that will be inspiring, or any scene/sequence that will be memorable. Eddie Murphy is surprisingly not in his worst form, especially after the dismal couple of years he has had, but that isn’t enough for a lazy film that was reeking of desperation of trying to get his career resurrected. Truth is Tower Heist, due to its expected outcome and unoriginal presentation, won’t satisfy even those who seek out the mindless entertainment. It’s an attempt to be the new Ocean’s 11 or the hip and fun character driven heist film where the process of the robbery is the focus and justice is eventually served. But with Ratner’s mediocre ability to tell a story you’re left with a film that can’t even reach the average standard of Ocean’s 11 and is eons away from The Italian Job.

Grade: C

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