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Originally published November 3, 2011 at 6:01 AM | Page modified November 3, 2011 at 6:01 AM

Scarecrow Video recommendations for 'Tower Heist

Everybody likes a good caper movie. The best ones have a rare, almost alchemical combination of our fascination with crime, the ever popular underdog story, and our love of twisty, complicated plots. Certainly the modern paradigm for this would be the "Ocean's" series ("Ocean's Twelve" being both the best entry and the most inexplicably disliked).

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Everybody likes a good caper movie. The best ones have a rare, almost alchemical combination of our fascination with crime, the ever popular underdog story, and our love of twisty, complicated plots. Certainly the modern paradigm for this would be the "Ocean's" series ("Ocean's Twelve" being both the best entry and the most inexplicably disliked).

This weekend we get "Tower Heist," from "director" Brett Ratner. Ben Stiller leads a big ensemble cast (including Casey Affleck, Gadbourey Sidibe and Matthew Broderick); they're the employees of a luxury Manhattan apartment high-rise, who discover their savings and pensions have been drained by the Madoff-like scoundrel in the penthouse (Alan Alda). Stiller enlists a childhood acquaintance-turned-criminal (Eddie Murphy) to help even the odds.

So how about some other good heist films? Going all the way back to 1955, there's "Rififi," a French film from the great Jules Dassin. The plot's pretty straightforward: an aging gangster is released from prison, and he gets a few of his buddies together for one last score. The centerpiece of the film is the nearly half-hour long burglary sequence, presented with no music or dialogue.

From 1972, there's "The Hot Rock," starring Robert Redford and directed by the great Peter Yates (who also directed "Bullitt"). Based on a novel by Donald E. Westlake, it features Redford as a career criminal who gets roped into a jewel heist by his brother-in-law. This film is more of a caper-comedy than a crime thriller, although that shouldn't suggest to you that it's low on suspense.

Finally you've got perhaps the greatest heist film of all time, John Huston's "The Asphalt Jungle," from 1950. Much like Rififi, it's about a guy recently out of the clink (in this case Sterling Hayden) looking to take down one last big target. This isn't just a heist film but an all-time classic noir: bleak, realistic and cynical. Also like Dassin's film, it features a lengthy, detailed and nearly silent heist sequence. It's an absolute classic. And if that's not enough for you, pair it with Stanley Kubrick's "The Killing." Taken together these two films are an amazing double feature.

We'll be back next week!




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