CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS
It's mystifying sometimes how the universe decides which directors are particularly worthy of scorn. Uwe Boll is the obvious one, hated as if he set fire to everyone's dog when in truth he's no better or worse than a hundred other low-budget hacks, and dodgy as some of his work might be (I still refuse to acknowledge there's a single redeeming feature in Postal), he's not down there with Michael Bay, who comes up with films consistently more tedious than Boll's but at a hundred times the cost. Brett Ratner is also high on the list of Directors You Should Hate, and again for no massively good reason. Some don't see his third X-Men movie in the same blinding glory as the first two Bryan Singer films, but personally I don't see much difference: they're all bloated, overlong and humourless orgies of CGI and uninteresting characters. Yes, Ratner's Red Dragon isn't a patch on Michael Mann's Manhunter, from the same original source novel, but it's okay.
Granted, he's also given us four more Chris Tucker movies than we really needed or even wanted: Money Talks and the three Rush Hour films. In truth I rather enjoyed the Rush Hours when the peerless Jackie Chan was doing his knockabout stuff although Chris Tucker is a spectacularly irritating screen presence and you really want someone to hit him (the only time he's been correctly cast is as a jabbering idiot in The Fifth Element). Like all those movies, Tower Heist is glossy, empty, stuffed with reputable names and, possibly since Chris Tucker isn't in it, rather good fun. The staff at an exclusive luxury high-rise in the middle of New York discover their pension funds have been stolen by multi-billionaire Alan Alda, and led by building manager Ben Stiller, they decide to rob his penthouse to get their money back when it looks like Alda is going to walk free.
How they manage to achieve all this is basically Mission: Impossible (right down to the catchy score, which sounds like it's going to burst into either the M:I theme tune or The Taking Of Pelham 123 at any moment) involving messing about in lift shafts, blocking off security cameras and dangling out of top-floor windows, and once it gets going it's far more entertaining than it had any right to be. I still don't much care for Ben Stiller as a leading man, and you might raise an eyebrow at the fact that the only two roles for black actors are the large woman (Gabourey Sidibe) and the petty crook (Eddie Murphy). Elsewhere, Tea Leoni is the Federal Agent in charge, Matthew Broderick is a guy about to be evicted, and Casey Affleck is the new building manager.
It's good fun, and in an era of Occupy Wall Street and insane amounts of personal wealth held by investment bankers, rather timely. It's not a great film: it won't be troubling most Best Of 2011 lists or Academy votes, but as Friday night multiplex fare it's perfectly alright, with generally likable characters and some nicely amusing moments. Bottom line is I really enjoyed it, and it's certainly the best thing we've seen from Ratner so far.