The pitch for “Skyscraper” had to be an easy sell. “We’ve got The Rock. Now imagine him as a John McClain type, but with only one leg! He’s disabled! And he has to limp his way through a colossal conflagration to save his family! It’s like “Die Hard” mixed with “The Towering Inferno” and a touch of “Enter the Dragon!” but in China! Oh, and he doesnt like guns.” Who wouldn’t be intrigued by that? But, when it comes to a finished product, “Skyscraper” is far less than the sum of its Frakenstiened parts.
First off, let’s make one thing clear. Dwayne The Rock Johnson is silver screen gold. He possesses the rarest form of charisma that makes him delightfully watchable in any film. (“Baywatch” is the one exception to that rule) As one would expect, he’s great every moment he’s on screen, regardless if he’s doing his best limp-run or chewing on bad dialog. The Rock also does an impressive job navigating the film’s fluctuating tone, a terrain more treacherous than the blazing building itself.
The film starts off rather unexpectedly with a serene winter-scape that is quickly punctuated with cop cars and a SWAT team breaching a log cabin. Inside a violent husband is holding his family hostage. Will Sawyer (Johnson) makes the call not to take the kill-shot, and instead tries to reason with the man. It’s a decision that will cost him his leg and the lives of others. It’s already a surprisingly cruel scene for what many hoped would be a fun-filled-silly-action-fest. Flash forward 10-ish years and he’s married to his surgeon, Sara (Neve Campbell), they’ve spawned two feisty children, and Will runs a security business out of their garage. Because of a friend in the business, he’s been contracted to provide a third-party assessment of the security and safety of the largest building in the world, a 3500′ tall behemoth dubbed “The Pearl.” Since no other building like this exists, the assessment is required before the structure can be insured. This sequence actually works fairly well as it’s the perfect excuse for some high tech exposition to the auidence. Like a good old-fashioned heist film, we’re flooded with stats, blueprints, and techno-jargon on this impressive tower. But then Sawyer is given a tablet which grants him full access and told to visit the offsite control center a few blocks away. For some inexplicable reason, once this tablet scans his ID ONCE, it’s given God-level access to all the controls. After this moment, any and all logic jumps out of a 200 story window.
The problem isn’t that the movie gets ridiculous, it’s that it takes itself far too seriously most of the time. A film of this nature either needs to shoot straight, as “The Towering Inferno” so many decades ago, or play along with the nonsense with a wink to the audience, ala “Fast and the Furious”, the “Transporter” or “The Expendables” (Perhaps what this movie needed was Jason Statham instead of Dwayne Johnson?) Instead, innocent people are gunned downed without a respectable one-liner, children are put into mortal dangers, and a MacGuffin that required NO explanation gets a monologue about “Tracking software embeded in all my money wires”. At least there are some fun sequences involving a mono-pedal man making a 30′ leap from a crane at one point but using an 8′ wood plank to span a gap at another.
Is film rests at about the same level as “Jurassic World:Fallen Kingdom”, but instead of Dinosaurs you get The Rock and Fire. Like the last two films I’ve reviewed, it exists not as entertainment, or creative expression, but as a marketing product, this time aimed solely at the overseas market where everything but “SOLO” has turned a substantially larger return than domestic markets. If this trend continues, expect to see more films of this nature.
*Extra Credit: For another example of an overseas market film, check out “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”