Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tower Heist

Stiller stars as Josh, the longtime manager of a luxury high-rise in Manhattan; it's actually the Trump International Hotel and Tower at Columbus Circle. When the financial guru who lives in the penthouse is charged with stealing billions from his investors — including the hardworking tower staff — Josh comes up with a plan to steal their money back. Alan Alda plays this Bernard Madoff figure with just the right mix of affability and sleaze.

One of the genius elements of the script — credited to Ted Griffin ("Ocean's Eleven") and Jeff Nathanson ("Catch Me If You Can") — is that it actually fleshes these characters out, which makes you care about whether they can pull this thing off. And the vivid childhood memories Josh and Slide have of each other is a running joke that adds to the movie's absurdity; Stiller is solid and hits just the right tone as the righteously indignant anchor at the center of this increasing mayhem.

At the same time, Josh strikes up an unlikely flirtation with the tough-as-nails FBI agent on the case, played by Tea Leoni. She grew up in working-class Queens, like Shaw, and she's disgusted by the flashy swindler he's become. Leoni has one great scene in which her character gets drunk with Stiller's and turns a little too forthcoming; it's a great reminder of what a natural comedienne she is, and it makes you want to see more of her.

The heist itself is, of course, completely ridiculous, but that's part of the point — and part of the fun. Ratner keeps things moving so fluidly that you'll probably just roll with it. And his film is lighted and shot so beautifully (the work of two-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Dante Spinotti) and it feels so substantial in terms of production values, you can't help but be drawn in. These feel like actual people doing actual stunts — especially during the crime itself, which takes place during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade — which sadly seems like a rarity in this age of computer-generated extravaganzas

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