Brett Ratner does not make movies, he makes Big Macs: disposable quick fixes, low in nutrition yet high in empty calories, and predestined to sell in the billions. (He may view that last part as a de facto compliment. It isn't meant as such.) You could chalk it up to just giving the multiplex crowd what they want, but the problem isn't that Ratner makes action comedies or buddy-cop flicks or big franchise blockbusters---all easy targets for critic-corps railing but crucial to a well-rounded cinephile's diet. It's that he has an uncanny knack for amping up the energy level and easy laughs while leaving out any sense of popcorn-fueled fun. Never mind the pandering; these flailing too-giant-to-fail films have no idea how to be genuinely entertaining.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Ratner's attempt to do an old-school heist film, complete with celebrity firepower and an early-'70s-thriller score. (Christophe Beck's vintage lite-funk soundtrack doesn't tip its hat to Bullitt's Lalo Schifrin so much as tilt an entire haberdashery in the composer's direction.) After a Wall Street fat-cat tenant scams employees of a luxury apartment tower, the building manager (Stiller), some coworkers and a thief (Murphy, in manic 48 Hours mode; welcome back!) decide to pull a Robin Hood and steal this penthouse occupant's stashed cash. Class rage, comic geniuses, the built-in pleasures of watching clockwork schemes set into motion: Ratner treats all of these elements like they're gratuitous. To him, they're merely excuses to get viewers from one empty sensation spike to the next; even the heist itself feels like a distraction rather than a narrative destination. A set piece involving a skyscraper and a sports car proves he can induce sweaty palms, but one nail-biting moment and some much-misssed Murphy mouthiness won't keep you from feeling like you're the one being ripped off.
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