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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Tower Heist

February 20th, 2012

Tower Heist - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Tower Heist originally started out as a vehicle for Eddie Murphy and he was going to lead an all-star ensemble of African American comedians. When that didn't work out, he left the project and it bounced around for several years before finally gelling. In that time, he returned to the project in a key role. Six years from inception to screen is perhaps not quite long enough to be considered development hell by everyone, but most will agree there were a lot of changes behind-the-scenes. Does this adversely affect the final product? Or did it just take a while to get all the pieces in just the right place?

The Movie

The film stars Ben Stiller as Josh Novaks, the manager of a luxury high-rise simply called, The Tower. The Tower is the most expensive piece of real estate is all of North America and as manager, Josh Novaks runs a very tight ship. He makes sure his crew is always at the ready to serve their rich and powerful tenants. And none are richer or more powerful than Arthur Shaw, who came from humble background to become one of the richest investors in the world, 138 on the Forbes 400.

All that changes when it is revealed he wasn't a brilliant investor, but instead running a massive Ponzi Scheme. Worse still for the workers of The Tower, Josh Novaks had asked Arthur Shaw to handle the pension for The Tower, so it appears their pension has been reduced to zero. While that's bad for them, it's worse for Lester, the doorman. Just a few months earlier, he had given Arthur Shaw everything he had saved up working as a doorman for 29 years, $73,000, and now it's all gone and this drove him to attempt suicide. Josh talks to Mr. Fitzhugh, a tenant who had recently been evicted because he lost everything on the stock market. He asks Mr. Fitzhugh how long Arthur Shaw must have known he was going to be busted. Mr. Fitzhugh tells him it was probably more than a year, meaning Arthur Shaw took Lester's money knowing he was about to be busted and Lester would lose everything. Enraged by this, Josh confronts Arthur and in doing so gets him; his brother-in-law, Charlie; and the new guy, Enrique, fired.

Later he goes to the FBI, specifically Special Agent Claire Denham giving her information in hopes of getting the money back. But she explains there's almost no chance of that, because despite all of the efforts of the FBI, they don't know where his money is and they might not have enough to hold him much longer. They know he has about $20 million hidden in case he needs to get out of town fast, but they don't know where. However, Josh thinks he knows where it is. He then recruits Charlie and Enrique, as well as Mr. Fitzhugh, to steal it back. But as Charlie says, they are not criminals and don't know how to steal. Fortunately, Josh knows someone who does: Slide. Slide is a street-smart criminal, but Josh and Slide go way back. They went to the same day care when they were six, not that Slide remembers right away. But the prospect of stealing $20 million jogs his memory really fast.

Slide agrees to help train the would-be robbers. But after a bumpy start, the plan gets more complicated and eventually they have to bring in a few more people. Fortunately, there are some working at The Tower willing to help out. However, this is a heist movie, so even the best made plans have a way of falling apart in the end.

I'm a fan of heist movies. I know there are certain elements that are in practically every single movie like this (recruiting the team, training montage, plans going awry, etc.) but I'm more than willing to accept those as long as the rest of the movie is put together well. With Tower Heist, this is mostly the case. There are a few elements that don't work as well as they should. Eddie Murphy's training methods seemed a little off. I know "Off" isn't a highly detailed description, but I don't know exactly what the problem is. He definitely had more energy than his trainees, but he was more subdued that he usually is. I don't know if a more subtle approach would have helped with a more even tone, or if a more wild approach would have played to his strengths. He did provide a lot of laughs in the movie, but given his talent, I was expecting more. In fact, that's a great way to describe the movie. It's funny, but given the huge amount of talent, it should have been funnier.

But how about the heist? Is the actual heist daring and exciting? Again, mostly. There are certainly some exciting moments in the movie, but also a few too many tricks pulled from the heist playbook. Specifically, the sudden but inevitable betrayal of the team by not one, but two members. The overall plan had some really good aspects to it and some nice surprise twists, but here too there are some flaws that were a little hard to take. More than once I thought to myself, "This is a plan that could only work by accident." I had a little trouble believing these guys could pull this off.

That said, while Tower Heist wasn't able to live up to high expectations, it was still more than funny enough and more than exciting enough to be worth watching, especially if you are a fan of the cast and / or genre.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track with the director, Brett Ratner; the editor, Mark Helfrich; and the two co-writers, Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson. There are two alternative endings, nine deleted scenes, and four minutes of outtakes. On a side note, this movie really needed an epilog and either ending is better than what we have in the movie, but the longer one called Lester's Bar is the better epilog. Finally, there is a 47-minute long making of featurette. It hits all the right marks for a first run release.

The Blu-ray has all of these extras, plus Brett Ratner's Video Diary, a 23-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. It also has a U-Control picture-in-picture track Second Screen Interactive Experience, plus BD-Live functions. That's a good amount of exclusive extras.

As for the technical presentation, I'm having trouble finding anything to talk about. It might not be the most visually flashy movie you will see, but there's not a flaw in the film that I noticed. There are high detail levels, strong colors, deep blacks, etc. There are no compression issues, no digital manipulation, no real flaws to speak of. Likewise, the audio is not overly fancy, but there's plenty of activity from the surround sound speakers and the subwoofer. Plus the dialogue is as clear as you could want. Overall, I have no complaints.

Finally we get to the price. The Blu-ray costs just $3 more than the DVD, which is less than 20% more. Since it comes with the DVD and a Digital Copy, that's an excellent deal.

The Verdict

If you are a fan of heist movies, then Tower Heist is worth checking out. If you are a fan of the cast, then Tower Heist is worth checking out. If you are a fan of both, then it is worth picking up. And since the Blu-ray Combo Pack has exclusive extras and an amazing technical presentation, it's worth spending the extra $3 to get it instead of the DVD


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