TOWER HEIST (Rated PG-13 for some sexual content & profanity): There's a standard pattern for heist flicks, and this one follows it fairly well. They start with a reason for the heist (here, revenge after workers at a luxury Central Park condo discover the penthouse billionaire (Alan Alda) has stolen their retirement so they plot the ultimate heist to reclaim what he took from them); then collect a gang of volunteers to carry out the heist (begins with the condo manager (Ben Stiller), who picks up the concierge (Casey Affleck), doorman (Stephen McKinleyHenderson), bellhop (Michael Pena), bankrupt trader resident (Matthew Broderick) & Jamaican maid (Gabourey Sidibe). They concoct the "perfect" heist which must go disastrously wrong at least half a dozen times (elevator problems, finding the billionaire's hidden stash, then during Macy's Thanksgiving Parade below, go through some vertigo-inducing moments dangling with a car (!) from the penthouse, etc.) and, finally, either get away with it or get caught (in this case, a little of both, but with the billionaire beautifully stiffed).
And there you have it, a formula flick. With director/co-writer Brett Ratner on hand, an old pro with this kind of suspense/action/comedy - the kind he can do with one hand tied behind his back - the movie moves at great pace, with Eddie Murphy as a well-known draw as the ace thief who takes over the heist when the bumbling starts; and even with a fine cast, he tops the fun, as he's done in other films of this sort.
Nice relief: this is one film that has more people employed in the staging of the action than in any special effects, and those stunt operators supply the best moments in the film. Ever see a car dangle from hundreds of feet above, with the thieves dangling from it - and with the parade going on below? Those scenes are worth the price of admission alone.
Dante Spenotti's camera work is also a thrill to behold, with near brilliant use of long shots of the tower from below & above, in daytime & night - almost as if the tower itself was the star of the movie, with Christophe Beck's great mickey-mousing music track complementing the step by step action throughout.
With plenty of rewrites by too many people to mention here, the cut & paste script frequently reveals its seams and prevents it from having the smooth flow of, say, "Topkapi" or "Hot Rock," but for all that Ratner offers up enough thrilling moments to make it play as a timely Madoff-type story and even with its loose ends, offers an hour & 44-minute kick to watch. (Grade: B)