|Tower Heist is a 2011 heist comedy film directed by Brett Ratner and written by Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson, based on a story by Bill Collage, Adam Cooper and Griffin. It was released on November 2, 2011, in the United Kingdom, with a United States release following two days later. Tower Heist follows Josh (Ben Stiller), Charlie (Casey Affleck) and Enrique Dev’reaux (Michael Peña), employees of an exclusive apartment building who lose their pensions in the Ponzi scheme of Wall Street businessman Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda). The group enlist the aid of criminal Slide (Eddie Murphy), bankrupt businessman Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) and another employee of the apartment building, Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe), to break into Shaw’s apartment and steal back their money while avoiding the FBI agent in charge of his case, Claire Denham (Téa Leoni).
Tower Heist began development as early as 2005, based on an idea by Murphy that would star himself and an all-black cast of comedians as a heist group who rob Trump Plaza. As the script developed and changed into an Ocean’s Eleven–style caper, Murphy left the project. Ratner continued to develop the idea into what would eventually become Tower Heist, with Murphy later rejoining the production. Filming took place entirely in New York City on a budget of $85 million, with several buildings provided by Donald Trump used to represent the titular tower. The film score was composed by Christophe Beck and released commercially on November 1, 2011.
The film received a generally positive critical reception with much of the praise going to the cast, including Broderick, Leoni and Stiller. However, Murphy was repeatedly singled out by critics as the star of the film, with critics feeling that he displayed a welcome return to the comedic style of his early career. Much of the criticism received by the film was focused on the plot which was considered “formulaic,” “rushed,” “dull” and “laborious.” As of February 2012, the film has earned $152 million during its theatrical run.
Prior to release, the film was involved in a controversy over plans by Universal Pictures to release it for home viewing on video on demand to 500,000 Comcast customers, only three weeks after its theatrical debut. Concern over the implementation’s harming ticket sales and inspiring further films to follow suit resulted in several theater chains’ refusal to show the film at all if the plan went ahead, forcing Universal to abandon the idea.
Josh Kovaks (Ben Stiller) is the building manager of The Tower, a high-rise luxury apartment complex on Central Park West in New York City whose employees include concierge Charlie (Casey Affleck), who is expecting a child with Josh’s sister; Enrique (Michael Peña), a newly hired elevator operator; Lester (Stephen Henderson), the doorman nearing retirement; Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe), a Jamaican maid on a work visa; and receptionist Miss Iovenko (Nina Arianda), who furtively studies for her bar exam at work.
One morning Josh sees what appears to be a kidnapping of Tower tenant and wealthy businessman Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda). Josh gives chase and almost catches him when he is clotheslined by FBI agent Claire Denham (Téa Leoni). Denham explains that Shaw wasn’t being kidnapped, he was attempting to flee arrest, accused of running a Ponzi scheme. Josh tells the Tower staff about Shaw’s arrest and explains that he gave Shaw their pension fund to invest, and their money is gone. After learning that Lester attempted suicide by walking in front of a moving train after losing everything he had, Josh, Charlie and Enrique visit Shaw, under house arrest in his penthouse apartment, to tell him this. Shaw expresses condolences but appears insincere, and Josh responds by destroying the windows of a 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Shaw has on display in his apartment. The building’s General Manager (Judd Hirsch) is furious at Josh’s action and fires Josh, Charlie and Enrique.
Josh meets Denham at a bar and she invites him to get drunk. As they drink she says Shaw must have had a cash safety net and suggests in jest that he find and steal it. Josh gathers Charlie, Enrique and former Tower tenant Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) to draw up a plan to steal Shaw’s money. When Charlie brings up the obvious drawback that they are not thieves, Josh enlists his neighbor and childhood playmate, a petty criminal named Slide (Eddie Murphy), to help. Slide trains the team but realizes he cannot do the robbery because he doesn’t know how to crack the safe in Shaw’s apartment. They bring in Odessa, whose family ran a locksmith business. Later on, Charlie tells Josh he’s been rehired as the Tower’s new manager, and warns Josh to stay away or he will have him arrested. Denham then tells Josh that a hearing for Shaw has been scheduled for Thanksgiving during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to avoid publicity, and Shaw will go free. Josh and his team decide to break into Shaw’s apartment during the parade.
The team reaches Shaw’s apartment, breaks down a false wall and finds Shaw’s safe behind it; Odessa opens the safe but finds it empty. Slide and Fitzhugh struggle for Slide’s gun; the gun goes off and a bullet hits the car, revealing gold underneath the Ferrari’s paint. They realize Shaw invested his cash in gold, had the gold melted down and cast into car parts, and then assembled the car in his apartment where the gold would be hidden in plain sight. Josh finds a ledger of Shaw’s illegal finances in the car’s glove box. They lower the car out the window into Fitzhugh’s old apartment six floors below, and then take it down to the lobby on top of an elevator. Just as they reach the lobby Agent Denham and Shaw return, the Thanksgiving court date being another set up, and take the same elevator back up. Denham sees Shaw’s safe and informs him that he did not declare the safe on an inventory of items taken when he was arrested, which is a violation of the conditions of his bail. She has him remanded back into custody.
Denham sees Lester using a stolen truck to try to escape from the building. She catches up to him, assuming he is fleeing with the Ferrari, but finds the truck empty. The FBI arrests him and Josh’s other accomplices. She personally handcuffs Josh and privately congratulates him. As Josh is being questioned by the FBI, Miss Iovenko arrives, telling the FBI that she passed her bar exam three days ago and is acting as Josh’s attorney. She shows them Shaw’s ledger and tells them she will turn it over in exchange for everyone’s freedom. The FBI accepts on the condition that Josh, being the primary conspirator, must serve a minimal two-year sentence.
The team retrieves the car from its hiding place in Shaw’s rooftop pool and send various parts of the car to Tower employees to compensate for their lost pensions. As the movie ends Shaw begins his life sentence and Josh is booked into jail, a satisfied smile slowly forming on his face.