My expectations were rather low coming into this film, I admit it. While I love caper films going all the way back to Rififi (even more than the Topkapi remake), I think Brett Ratner should probably be banned from directing for destroying the first X-Men trilogy, if nothing else. Add to this concern having Ben Stiller in the film, who never met a facial mug he didn’t like, and my apprehension grew.
However, something surprising happened, Stiller was massively restrained and even rather good. Ratner’s control and sense of pace, as well as his decisions around script and editing were also generally all good. Memories of Rush Hour came back… from when Ratner was actually showing his capabilities. The supporting cast was solid and story amusing. Sidibe and Leoni were especially good in their bit parts. Only Murphy seemed a bit out of place–though that also is part of the intention. And even he was reasonably in control.
There was a bit of an 80’s style feel to the plot, though it fits well into the current economic climate and issues. Then again, it fit well for the period after the 87 crash too. A part of me wonders if this script hasn’t been sitting around and was tweaked for the 2000’s. This may be part of why it did poorly at the box office. The film takes its time to build the motivations and while there are some stunts, there are no huge explosions or crazy car chases. They focused on story and reduced f/x–an 80s trademark. What kept this from really succeeding, though, was that we’re missing individual characters we really cared about.
The story attempts to create a group of everymen/women that the audience can emotionally associate themselves with. We root for the gang of workers because they’re us. Well, it really didn’t quite feel that way. Some of the characters were too specific and, as a whole, the world they lived in was alien to 90% of the working public. A luxury apartment building might as well be another planet unless you’ve worked a 5 star hotel or have wealthy friends or associates in NYC. That missed connection robbed the film of its pay-off. The writers would have done better giving us some solid individual stories so we could cheer for the characters rather than think about ourselves… or just watch the plot unfold.
While this may not have hit on all cylinders, it was diverting and not a waste of time. If you like caper films, particularly the older style kind, you’ll have an amusing popcorn evening with this offering.