From the start, the movie lays the groundwork for a cathartic payoff. Rather than hurrying into a barrage of plot developments, Ratner spends spends
considerable time showing the regular-guy protagonists on the job. Coming from diverse backgrounds that reflect the melting pot realities of modern New
York, they're seen earning their paychecks by holding doors for the residents, cleaning their apartments, and making sure that precise individual needs
are met. One of the characters studies for the bar exam during her downtime. They ride the subway back to comfortable, modest, outer-borough apartments.
In short, these aren't archetypes exaggerated for comic effect but rather hard workers earning their ephemeral shot at a small part of the American
The protagonists aren't embellished here; the villains and secondary characters, though, are. There's the smarmy Shaw, owner of one of Steve McQueen's hot-red Ferraris, whose sympathetic façade turns into haughty indifference
when his duplicity is shown to have robbed the employees of their pensions. Scam artist Slide, meanwhile, is played by Eddie Murphy in all his '80s-style, fast-talking glory.
The reasoning behind the titual caper is sensible enough: These people want their pensions back. And so, in contrast to a lot of big-screen heists, there's
an aura of disbelief surrounding the planning and execution of the robbery, and fewer of the usual flashy thrills. With the exception of Slide, the characters aren't out to get rich or grab an adrenaline high. Though Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) takes a golf club to Shaw's prized car, the tone is less angry than resigned to the desperate situation.
Tower Heist aims effectively for the tear ducts when Josh visits doorman Lester (Stephen McKinley Henderson) in his hospital room after the kindly veteran tries to
kill himself when upon learning his savings have vanished. Given the proliferation of stories about lost 401Ks, not unlike Lester's, it's easy to be infected by the urgency that propels Josh on the quest for revenge.
Within its generic exterior, the film celebrates these sorts of relationships instead of the materialistic ideals so often promoted by
Hollywood. It's successful in revealing the human cost of economic malfeasance from the ground up. In its appreciation for the basic dignity and inherent rights of
all hard workers, the picture comes in the tradition of grand social dramas such as Norma Rae or On the Waterfront.
Of course, that's not to say that Tower Heist qualitatively compares with those movies. In truth, Ratner's film is unworthy of mention in the
same breath. But the major studios just don't make these sorts of films anymore, works singularly concerned with the plight of the working class while
subscribing to the notion that we're all part of the same ecosystem. The other prominent movies about the financial crisis offer instructive proof.
There's Margin Call, with its insider portrait of an investment bank, the upper-management layoff drama The Company Men, and the sexy
pyrotechnics of In Time.