VOD Spotlight: “Tower Heist” resonates with filmgoers’ current financial anxieties

The Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme stripped thousands of their retirement accounts. It was a sad testament to one man’s pride and greed and sadder still for those he swindled. And it was only a matter of time before someone would give the little guys a chance to get theirs, as they do in the action comedy Tower Heist. Here, wealthy businessman Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) steals the retirement accounts of the staff of the tower in which he has his penthouse. He may get away with the crime unless the wronged employees, led by the building manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller), can steal those millions back.

A compelling element of the premise that resonated with the team was the empowering Robin Hood spirit of those who would be driven to commit the robbery. The writers tapped into the battered U.S. economy, the financial meltdown of which occurred amidst charges of corporate mismanagement, record-high unemployment and financiers defrauding their clients.

“It’s about the upstairs and the downstairs and working-class, blue-collar workers just trying to get by who were robbed. They’re taking it back from not just the rich, but the corrupt rich. That’s why you’re cheering for and rooting for these characters. You want them to win,” says director Brett Ratner.

The comedy comes from the fish-out-of-water situation the cast — which also includes Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Judd Hirsch, Téa Leoni  and Gabourey Sidibe — finds itself in. These characters aren’t burglars, they are simply employees, but no one knows Shaw’s building the way they do.

The top-floor apartment in the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York served as the model for Shaw’s penthouse. With the cooperation of Donald Trump, the filmmakers were able to film exteriors and the glorious view of the Big Apple from the penthouse. Street scenes were also done in New York, including a chase scene through Columbus Circle.

“Tower Heist” is available starting Feb. 21 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.

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© 2012 Universal Studios

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