Review in a Hurry: Director Brett Ratner may not see the irony in throwing what is pretty clearly a massive budget into an anti-greed tale, but then this is the guy who gave us The Family Man, in which Nicolas Cage learned how much more awesome it is to be poor than rich and ended up getting to keep his millions anyway. But wonky politics aside, this ensemble comedy headed up by Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy is an entertaining yarn with at least one solidly suspenseful sequence you’ll remember.
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The Bigger Picture: First things first. You should probably know that Eddie Murphy really isn’t in this movie quite as much as his billing would have you believe: Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick and Michael Pena play more significant characters. And Murphy’s small-time thief, who goes by the name of Slide, isn’t much more than an SNL-style caricature, but that’s OK. It works.
Secondly, even though the title of the movie sounds as blatantly literal as such things get, those expecting something in the vein of a more traditional heist movie may be disappointed. This isn’t some elaborate puzzle box that plays tricks on you as it clicks into gear; it’s character actors riffing, while following a narrative that doesn’t require any additional thought to follow. Which, again, works if you don’t have silly over-expectations for a Brett Ratner joint.
Stiller is Josh Kovacs, building manager for “The Tower,” an elite and ultra-expensive New York skyscraper where the staff caters to every need while refusing tips. When the penthouse resident, a seemingly benevolent, self-made gazillionaire named Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) is busted on charges of financial corruption—and it turns out he has effectively drained every staff member’s pension fund—all hell breaks loose. Kovacs is fired after making his frustrations known and turns to a neighborhood thief (Murphy), whom he also happens to remember from childhood, to help him plot a robbery of the emergency cash stash everybody’s sure Shaw is hiding somewhere in the building.
It takes a while to get going, but once the game is afoot, things kick into gear nicely. An extended sequence in which several major characters are dangling off the side of the tower in a precariously winched stolen car is edge-of-your-seat fantastic, and Gabourey Sidibe turns in an unexpectedly funny turn as a marriage-hungry Jamaican immigrant with an affinity for picking locks (unfortunately, most of her best bits have been spoiled in trailers).
The ending’s a bit abrupt and maybe doesn’t quite pack the punch it should, but the timeliness of the revenge factor against corrupt bankers makes up for it.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Too much knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Being fully aware that Alan Alda is deliberately playing a grotesque exaggeration of his political opposites makes it hard to see the character as more than a straw man and takes some of the fun out of his potential comeuppance.
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