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'Tower Heist' a revenge flick for the Occupy era

Eddie Murphy, left, and Ben Stiller in "Tower

Eddie Murphy, left, and Ben Stiller in "Tower Heist." (Universal Pictures) Credit: Eddie Murphy, left, and Ben Stiller in "Tower Heist." (Universal Pictures)

Director Brett Ratner said that when he set out to erect "Tower Heist," his new caper-adventure starring Eddie Murphy, he wanted to emulate the kind of action comedies he had loved as a kid - the kind of movies that might have starred Eddie Murphy.

"Eddie kind of invented the genre," Ratner said, referring to "48 Hrs." and the "Beverly Hills Cop" series - films that sandwiched Murphy's early years on "Saturday Night Live" and as a stand-up comedian.

"'Rush Hour,' which was part of my success, wouldn't have existed if it weren't for Eddie," Ratner said.

Murphy, now 50, has had a few dry seasons. Outside of the "Shrek" franchise, in which he voices Donkey, the star hasn't had anything close to a hit since "Norbit" (2007). "Meet Dave" (2008) crashed and burned; likewise "Imagine That" (2009).

So both he and Ratner - whose last theatrical feature, "Rush Houe 3," failed to come close to the ticket sales of the previous two films - have to be hoping that "Tower Heist" will bail them both out.

It was Murphy's idea that eventually became the plot for "Tower Heist" - in which the disgruntled employees of a luxury Manhattan condominium rip off a Bernie Madoff-inspired con man - which has suddenly become a topical movie.

When he's fired for an act of supreme insubordination, condo manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) assembles a misfit crew of would-be burglars - including the street-wise and none-too-trustworthy Slide (Murphy) - to rob the apartment of Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), an unscrupulous banker who has embezzled the retirement fund of the building's entire workforce.

At a press event held at the Mandarin Oriental hotel - which is across Columbus Circle from the movie's principal location, Trump Tower - Ratner said it wasn't their objective to reflect the Occupy Wall Street movement, or the Madoff case, either.

"We wanted to make a great underdog story," the director said. "We didn't know that the culture was going to catch up to it.

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