Movie review: “Skyscraper”

Skyscraper aTowering Inferno meets Die Hard Lite, Dwayne Johnson’s latest action spectacle plays like a tepid throwback that makes little use of its leading man’s two main strengths: his imposing presence and impeccable comic timing. Skyscraper is too predictable for its own good.

Let’s be honest: A large part of the fun of watching a movie starring The Rock lies in watching him portray cartoonish, contrived action mega-heroes with a paradoxical Everyman swagger that should not — yet somehow does — work like a charm. (His willingness to parody is what made Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle a box office success.)

This time around, he stars as Will Sawyer, a former FBI agent who loses a leg (and a lot of lives) during a hostage rescue that goes south in the opening scene. The story fast forwards ten years, and Will is working as a security consultant for super-ultra-rich developer Chin Han (Zhao Min Zhi) who’s about to open the Pearl, a 220-story building that serves as a vertical city featuring countless apartments, retail spaces, a terrarium, gigantic wind turbines that power the entire structure, and a dome full of next-gen digital display tech.

It’s a sleek, shiny architectural experiment that, of course, gets torched immediately during a heist-disguised-as a-terrorist-attack instigated by obligatory Euro-trash villain Kores Botha (Roland Møller). The ensuing heavily telegraphed plot contrivances have Sawyer fighting bad guys and gravity while trying to save his family (including a wife played by a believably butt-kicking Neve Campbell) from a raging fire and fighting to clear his name.

It’s the loosest of stories, with a lot of corner-cutting going on. The stakes are too low (the building is, conveniently for the hero, virtually unoccupied), the premise behind the heist leaps the thin line between brilliantly simple into too stupid for words, and too much time is spent on a glut of superfluous characters. Every single bit of clunky foreshadowing  comes onto play however, and you better believe it’s predictable as hell.

Writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s background lies mainly in comedy (DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, We’re the Millers, and Central Intelligence), and while playing against type can lead to inspired results, that’s not the case here: the humor only comes through sporadically, and Thurber leans too heavily into earnestness with the material. On top of that, he doesn’t show much more than mild knack for action beats.

However, he does manage one impressive directorial feat: He strips the Rock of his heretofore indestructible charisma.

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