Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Pablo Schreiber, Noah Taylor, Roland Moller, and Chin Han
Take the barebones plot of “Die Hard”, now add fire to the building like “The Towering Inferno”, and lastly let Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson fight some bad guys. The elevator pitch for director/writer Rawson Marshall Thurber’s “Skyscraper” probably went something like that. And for a summer popcorn movie I’m sure that was more than enough information to greenlight this 80’s-esque action throwback. Having Dwayne Johnson as the foundation for a behemoth building-on-fire film is a pretty good way to guarantee that even though your film might check every single genre cliché, it will still have charm and entertainment value.
Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) is a retired FBI hostage rescue agent, also retired soldier, who is doing building security contract work in Hong Kong. However, this isn’t just a regular building, this is the tallest building in the world. It is Will’s job to make sure it is also the safest building in the world. Will’s wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and their two children (McKenna Roberts and Noah Cottrell) are the only people living inside the luxury rooms located high up in the skyscraper. While checking an offsite facility, where the sophisticated building operations system is located, the building is suddenly set on fire and blamed on Will who soon finds out his family is still in the building and he is the only one who can save them.
During one of the pivotal action scenes, the moment in the movie when our everyday hero moves from ordinary to extraordinary, Mr. Johnson’s character utters the line, “This is stupid”. The same may be uttered by some audience members during the movie as well. However, taking a look at the movie poster, which shows Dwayne Johnson jumping from construction equipment into a burning building, it’s obvious the kind of movie you are paying for. It’s a nonsensical, physics defying popcorn film in the vein of the movies teens from the 1980’s fondly recount.
The story is simplistic and idiotic at times, however the composition of Will Sawyer as a determined tough guy who, after an accident, must deal with having a prosthetic limb adds some nice moments of suspense. And it also limits the physicality of the character and specifically, for someone with an intimidating physique like Dwayne Johnson, it seems to give the bad guys an advantage during combat scenes and it makes the high-flying action scenes have increased suspense. Yes, we know nothing is going to happen to the character, that’s not how these kinds of films work; but when fire is blazing, when the ground seems miles away, or when our hero is dangling from a building by his prosthetic leg (as seen in the trailer), it’s intriguing to see how the character will escape his predicament.
Dwayne Johnson fits perfectly into the mix as the good guy out to save his family. Think about the Bruce Willis’ character John McClane in “Die Hard”, an everyday officer trying to save his wife, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character John Matrix in “Commando”, a masculine soldier trying to save his daughter; Dwayne Johnson’s character here is a mix of both of them and he is completely likable in the performance. Add Neve Campbell, who could easily transition her career with this type of tough character, and the character development nicely accompanies, and many times carries, the hampered script.
“Skyscraper” is a good action film, if you can overlook the fact that coherency will play no prime directive in the film. Still, Dwayne Johnson is a better actor than Arnold Schwarzenegger and has more charm than Sylvester Stallone. If he could only get that Jean-Claude Van Damme roundhouse kick, Johnson would have it all.
2.75 out of 5.00