It has been roughly 15 years since Bernie Madoff was convicted of operating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, and it is shame there has been so much high-profile white-collar crime since then that many may struggle to remember who Madoff was and what he did.
2011’s Tower Heist was made when that conviction was fresh in the collective consciousness. Alan Alda plays a Madoff surrogate, as the wealthy financial advisor who resides in the penthouse of a luxury NYC building known only as “The Tower”. Early on, it is revealed Alda is nothing but a glorified con artist and, awaiting a trial date, he is put under house arrest.
Ben Stiller manages the building and, years before, he unwisely allowed Alda to manage the employees’ pension plan. Any hopes of getting that money back are non-existent, as an FBI agent played by Tea Leoni repeatedly informs Stiller, “You were his smallest account”. Ouch!
The FBI has many lucrative assets of Alda’s they can liquidate; however, there is $20 million unaccounted for. Stiller has a hunch he knows where that money is stashed in the penthouse. Unfortunately, he and his closest work associates have just been fired, complicating plans to get that money and secure a future for the employees Stiller disappointed.
To do this heist, Stiller gets together a crew of people largely unfamiliar with committing crimes. Even the professional thief he recruits, played by Eddie Murphy, has only stolen property from fire escapes because, by his logic, breaking and entering would escalate a crime to a felony.
Another questionable team member is Matthew Broderick as a formerly well-to-do former high-ranking financial expert, who is now a beaten-down shell of his former self. Is it just me, or has Broderick’s roles since Ferris Bueller been some kind of penance for being the kid literally too cool for school in one movie?
A couple of other team members, played by Michael Peña and Gabourey Sidibe, turn in particularly noteworthy performances, with the latter having an essential and unexpected skill necessary for a successful heist.
I had to go to great pains to suspend my disbelief to the extent required by Tower Heist, though I enjoyed it. I found it odd that, as I’m such an easy laugh (and I acknowledge some dialogue is pretty clever) yet I don’t think I laughed once during it. But I smiled a lot, so that’s saying something.
It’s odd how something that was a shocking event at one point in time eventually becomes so commonplace as to barely warrant the term “news”. Unfortunately, nobody seems to care anymore whether a white-collar criminal steals the life savings of a large group of people. But in Tower Heist, we at least have a group pissed off enough to take matters into their own hands. In reality, however, they would just sign and shrug it off–just like we do.
Dir: Brett Ratner
Starring Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck
Watched on Amazon Prime