There are light or semi-frolicsome heist films like Topkapi, The Hot Rock, Sneakers or the Oceans films, and there are dead-serious ones like Rififi, The Asphalt Jungle, The Killing and Odds Against Tomorrow. Obviously Tower Heist belongs in the former category. Its closet cousin, I feel, is Peter Yates‘ The Hot Rock. Smart chat, amusing antics, likable perps, etc,
Okay, it’s good natured and even funny now and then, and yes, Eddie Murphy has definitely given his funniest comic performance since Bowflnger. I actually started liking him again after I don’t know how many years of throwing mental spitballs at the guy.
But I was a little bothered that director Brett Ratner didn’t seem very invested in the fantasy of actually doing the job, much less getting away with it. Too few details, no suspense to speak of…no way to believe that Ben Stiller and the guys had any kind of serious shot at success. An audience needs to believe a little bit in the reality of the job, and my sense was that Ratner didn’t give a shit. The whole thing felt larky.
As silly and japey as The Hot Rock was, I had a better time with it, and I was at least half-invested in the realistic terms of the various heists. Yes, even the helicopter attack on the Manhattan police station. Even Afghanistan Bananistan. I didn’t believe the Tower Heist guys were all that committed.