Eddie Murphy Traffics Racial Stereotypes in 'Tower Heist'
1 year ago
Is the Oscar worthy actor taking us back to 'Birth of a Nation'?
It’s not anything new to say that we like movies about criminals. There’s a vicarious, transgressive thrill to watching people pull off a complicated scheme. And that’s especially true when the crime represents reparations -- revenge on a casino owner who gave a Vegas original a heart attack in "Ocean’s 11," a con who catches the mob boss who killed a white grifter’s black mentor in "The Sting."
This year has ushered in a new trend in crime movies, and it’s not an encouraging one: The African-American character who teaches a bunch of white boys how to break the law. And there’s something particularly disturbing about seeing actors like Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx go from Academy Award nominations and wins to work that seems to play off of stereotypes about black criminal inclinations. One has to wonder if prominent black actors are taking inferior roles to cash a paycheck, or simply to keep working in a world that offers few prestige roles for black men and women.
In "Horrible Bosses," a group of abused white working stiffs decide to murder their employers for reasons ranging from watching their superiors drive the company they gave their lives to into the ground, to being victimized by sexual harassment and assault. But they have no acquaintance with violence or crime of any kind, so they seek out a bar in a predominantly African-American neighborhood and seize on the first man who’s willing to talk business with them. In this story, that’s an ex-convict who goes by the colorful name of “Motherfucker Jones,” played by Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx, who initially robs them blind.
It’s a patently ludicrous premise, but Tower Heist repeats it almost exactly. In that movie, Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller), the manager of a luxury apartment called the Tower, discovers that the investment banker who owns the penthouse is a fraud who ripped off their pension fund and is likely to walk. Desperate, he enlists “Slide” -- played by Eddie Murphy, who was nominated for an Oscar for "Dreamgirls" -- a petty criminal and his life-long neighbor, to help him and his friends learn to steal.