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Film / Tower Heist

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Tower Heist is a 2011 action comedy directed by Brett Ratner, starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. Stiller plays Josh Kovaks, the building manager of a high-rise owned by Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), a Wall Street fat cat who ends up being placed under house arrest for a Ponzi scheme involving pretty much every employee in the building. Because they can't legally get their money back, Kovaks decides to enlist Slide (Murphy), a convict who grew up with him, to help him and his co-workers in breaking into Shaw's penthouse in order to recoup what was taken from them.


This film provides examples of:

  • Armor-Piercing Question: "If you care about Lester, then how come you haven't asked whether he's alive or dead?" Although this doesn't wound Shaw, so much as cause him to drop the act and present his Smug Snake card and pass it forward.
  • Actor Allusion: Josh Kovaks telling Slide about a Chevy Nova, a car he's driven before.
  • Badass Boast: "Sharks are born swimming." This is said by Josh's acting attorney, who just effectively blackmailed the FBI into letting Josh's group off the hook.
  • Benevolent Boss: Josh Kovaks truly cares about the workers in the Tower. Ultimately, it is this level of empathy that drives him to plot the heist
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Josh is a gracious employer who cares about his subordinates, as well as a charismatic individual who gets along with the residents. However, when he discovers that Shaw swindled his employees out of money, he takes a golf club to Shaw's Ferrari. Subsequently, he plots a heist to reimburse his employees.
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  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Shaw does a very good job of coming across as a Cool Old Guy who's Nice to the Waiter for the first part of the film before being exposed as a ruthless Jerkass and con man.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Shaw is sent to prison for life after his scams are fully revealed, yet Josh is sent to jail as well for the robbery. However, the FBI manages to reduce his term to two years and let Slide, Odessa, Enrique, Fitz and Charlie go free in exchange. They manage to recover Shaw's Ferrari (which they hid in his pool), and divide the solid-gold car parts among the older members of the Tower's staff.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Slide is afraid the trope will be invoked.
  • Butt-Monkey: Everyone of the workers of the Tower to a degree, but the award goes to Mr. Fitzhugh. For having the most potential to succeed in life out of the entire group he tends to get the short end of everything until the end.
  • The Cameo: Kate Upton as Mr. Hightower's Mistress.
    • Heavy D as Courthouse Guard
  • The Caper
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Arthur Shaw's Ferrari.
    • The pool cover.
    • Lester's attempted suicide.
    • Mr. Fitzhugh's apartment renovation.
    • Shaw's monologue about using unexpected sacrifices to win in chess.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Miss Iovenko, the Tower employee studying for her bar exam, who uses her abilities to act as Josh's attorney.
  • Chess Motifs: The Marshall Swindle.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: There's no evil CIA, but the FBI is shown in pretty decent light, being all hard-working people, and Reasonable Authority Figures, something unusual for films where the protagonists are committing a huge crime.
  • Citizenship Marriage: Odessa is desperately wanting a husband so she won't be deported back to Jamaica.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Taken Up to Eleven with the conversation about lesbians during Josh's heist plan.
  • Cool Old Guy: Lester, the aging doorman, is a charming individual who gets along with the employees and residents. Lester gets a shining moment when he steals a truck to divert attention from the heist.
  • Crash-Into Hello: Josh and Claire meet when she knocks him to the ground because he's interfering with an FBI sting.
  • David Versus Goliath: Invoked when Miss Iovenko states her intention to essentially blackmail the FBI- and by extension the United States Government- in order to get a favourable outcome for the rest of the Tower employees on her third day as an officially-qualified lawyer.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Charlie.
  • Deconstructive Parody: Of heist movies. Only one member of the crew is a criminal, and a petty one at that. The big heist gets messed up before it even starts.
    Mr. Fitzhugh: You brought a stolen car to a robbery?
  • Disproportionate Retribution: A chain of retribution, so to speak. Lester tries to commit suicide, Josh destroys Shaw's Ferrari. This in turn causes Shaw to demand that Josh apologize and secretly has plans to sue him, which in turn causes Josh to plan the titular heist.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: At a crucial moment, Manuel distracts the security team by showing them a copy of French Playboy featuring one of the tenants.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Slide's exact words are: "Call me Darnell one more time, I will beat you to death."
  • Driven to Suicide: Lester tries to kill himself by walking in front of a moving subway train, but is pulled out of the way at the last second, leaving him injured but alive.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Shaw is displayed to be a nice guy, right until Mr. Fitzhugh tells Josh, Charlie and Devereux that Shaw would've known he was in financial trouble roughly a year ago, before he "invested" Lester's savings for him.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Charlie is recounting the wild goose chase that ensued after Enrique sent a text from his wife's stolen phone saying that her water broke. He trails off, then asks, "Have you seen Josh?"
  • Exposition Cut: Josh's morning routine introduces the main characters and their roles in the Tower.
  • Expy: The Tower is a stand-in to the Trump International Hotel and Tower, where the movie was filmed at.
  • Extreme Doormat: Deconstructed. Claire accuses Josh of avoiding confrontation, yet he explains he's only that way because he has no need to be otherwise. Then he hears about Lester...
  • Face–Heel Turn: Played with, per se. While planning for the heist, Charlie is hired to become the Tower's new manager. He promises to foil Josh's plans should he push through with the heist. Also, during the heist, Slide decides to go straight for the vault due to the skills he picked up from Odessa. Both of them manage to go through with the original group though.
  • A Father to His Men: Josh towards his staff at the Tower.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Arthur Shaw seems like a nice guy at first, but as the movie goes on it shows that his kindness is all an act. Special mention should go to him "agreeing" to drop the charges against Josh for attacking his car in exchange for an apology, before taunting him about his dismissal and making a comment about doormen only shortly after Lester's dismissal, before revealing later he plans to sue him the first chance he gets, then telling Claire he plans to go after her badge for arresting him, right while offering to take her out for dinner.
  • Five-Finger Discount: Slide asks Josh, Charlie, Enrique, and Fitzhugh to shoplift $50 worth of goods from the mall in order to prove that they are capable of pulling off a $20 million heist.
  • The Ghost: Fitzhugh's wife and kids never appear onscreen.
  • Hollywood Density: A car made of pure gold being relatively easily moved and pushed by the cast, and most egregious example, the weight of the boxes containing the spare parts at the end seem to change as they are transferred from hand to hand.
  • Interservice Rivalry: The policeman who isn't letting several FBI agents escort a man under house arrest back to his home. It would not have been much for him to go out and quickly allow six people to cross the parade route between balloons, but the plot demands it.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "I'm sorry sir, but we don't accept tips at The Tower."
    • "Checkmate." Bonus points for having the second quote come immediately after the first.
  • Jerkass:
    • Shaw turns out to be a pompous, arrogant figure who thinks he can get away with anything.
    • Slide is fairly abrasive, though he's at least somewhat likable.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Josh doesn't even care about getting back the money that was stolen from him. His goal is to make sure everyone else who got scammed gets compensated, even at the risk of going to prison himself.
  • Karmic Thief: The thieves target a dishonest Wall Street banker.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Mr. Simon for unjustly firing Charlie and Enrique when Josh only acted out of order and he eventually ended up imprisoned in a closet by Slide when the latter deviates from the heist. Granted, he gave Josh’s old job to Charlie, showing that he must’ve wanted to make up for unjustly firing him, but since he did not offer Enrique any compensation, this trope is semi-justified.
  • Loophole Abuse: Averted. Shaw still has to go to jail for the hidden safe he didn't report, regardless if it is empty.
  • Misplaced-Names Poster: As you can see above, the names don't match up, and adding to that there are six names and seven people.
  • The Mole: Lester, Manuel, and several other members of the staff are shown to be aware of the heist as it goes on.
  • Mood Whiplash: Often, after a serious scene, the scene (thanks to context) will cut to things like the inside of a Toys R Us where a My Little Pony (G3, no less!) ferris wheel cart can be seen, or the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song.
  • Motor Mouth: Slide. It's Eddie Murphy, so it's pretty much a given.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers and promotional material lead Claire Denham, Tea Leoni's character, to be a member of the heist crew. She is an FBI Agent assigned to keep watch of Shaw and serves as Josh's (Ben Stiller) love interest. The trailer also makes it look like Odessa will make a Face–Heel Turn. In the movie, she was just disappointed that the guard was allergic to chocolate. Plus, it makes Stiller and Murphy look like co-leads, when Slide is actually a supporting role.
  • No Name Given: Mr. Fitzhugh's first name is never revealed.
  • No Peripheral Vision: Thousands of people in the parade fail to notice a bright red Ferrari being dangled off the side of a building. They are really concentrating on that parade.
  • Oblivious Janitor Cut: A maid wearing headphones while vacuuming an apartment fails to notice the Ferrari being lowered outside the window behind her.
  • Off the Rails: After all the build-up and planning, the gang ends up sending the heist flying off the rails in the first two minutes.
  • Oh, Crap!: Shaw is reduced to begging when Josh reveals that they found his ledger of all his criminal accounts and are going to present it to the authorities.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Josh's childhood asthma gave him fits that other kids at daycare thought were seizures. Slide remembers this and isn't afraid to bring it up.
  • The Precious, Precious Car: Oh, quite precious, as we discover.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: FBI Director Mazin is committed to putting Shaw away and is willing to make a fair deal with the heroes to get that, but at the same time won't let their theft go completely unpunished.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Odessa. Bonus points for being Jamaican...
  • Secret Test of Character: During Josh's confrontation with Shaw in the latter's penthouse, Josh makes a small one of these by informing Shaw of Lester's suicide attempt and asking whether or not Shaw really cares about Lester. Despite Shaw's concern upon learning of the ordeal and his insistence that Lester has been an important part of his life for years, Shaw fails this because he never bothered to ask whether Lester is alive or dead.
  • Shaped Like Itself:
    • Don't make Slide mad or he'll "blow your face clean off your face."
    • The tower named, well, The Tower.
  • Should Have Thought of That Before X: Mr. Simon fires Josh, Charlie, and Enrique after Josh smashes the windows of Shaw's car. When Josh protests that the others didn't do anything, Mr. Simon says he should have thought about that before destroying a resident's property.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Slide regularly includes expletives in his vocabulary.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Josh and Shaw. They play one another online at the beginning of the film, and apparently they've been doing so for a while.
  • Smug Snake: When Arthur Shaw is confronted over the missing funds he misappropriated, he reveals himself to be a pompous, arrogant snob who thinks he can get away with anything. He maintains his arrogance until Josh reveals his intentions to use Shaw's own ledger as evidence against him, reducing him to begging.
  • Soul Brotha: Slide is an affectionate parody of stock hoodlums of African descent. In a slight variation, Slide is a burglar as opposed to a street mugger, and is unfamiliar with the art of safe-cracking.
  • Surveillance Station Slacker: Manuel reads magazines instead of watching the security cameras.
  • Taking You with Me: At the end of the film, a nonlethal twist on this situation plays out when Josh ensures Shaw's downfall alongside his own by handing the FBI the latter's ledger containing enough evidence to lock Shaw away for the rest of his life, accepting a reduced sentence for himself and enabling the rest of the heist team to walk free.
  • Thanksgiving Day Story: The eponymous heist takes place during Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
  • Uncommon Time: Much of Christophe Beck's score is in 7/8.
  • Unwanted Assistance: After Josh gets his friends fired.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Josh helps stop several men who are spiriting Shaw away in their car, only to find out it was an attempt to flee justice and not a kidnapping.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Before news of his crimes come out, Shaw seems like a nice guy, having friendly chats with lowly members of staff and playing regular chess games with Josh. He then abuses their trust to get them to give him their money.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Last we saw of Mr. Simon, he was still locked in the closet.
    • Also, whatever happened to the FBI agent who was about to kick down the locked door?
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Josh establishes himself as a master of thinking on his feet, shown when the crew discovers the safe empty, only to discover the gold Ferrari, with Josh altering the plan accordingly by hiding the car in the elevator shaft, later the pool. Josh also ensures that Shaw doesn't remain unscathed in the aftermath of the heist, accepting a shorter jail sentence in exchange for the ledger containing evidence of Shaw's fraudulent activities.


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