Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a towering figure – literally and figuratively. So the world’s biggest movie star takes on the world’s biggest fictional skyscraper in this summer’s blockbuster Skyscraper. Now available on Blu-ray and Digital HD, Skyscraper is a ludicrous blockbuster which sees the action subgenre of “Die Hard in a…” going full circle as it’s basically Die Hard in a building. The Rock reunites with Central Intelligence director Rawson Marshall Thurber, who makes his first foray into straight action. Skyscraper is an absurd action flick that plays all of its ample absurdity with a straight face.
Dwayne Johnson stars as Will Sawyer, another one of The Rock’s trademark sterling heroes. He’s a hostage rescuer who loses his leg in a mission gone awry. There is a silver lining, though, as he meets his future wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) at the hospital. Years later, Will Sawyer has a prosthetic leg and has reinvented himself as a security expert. He’s a kind, affable man whose sterling professionalism has him taking on a job at The Pearl, a massive 225 stories high built by wealthy Chinese billionaire Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han). Along with that job comes a luxury apartment for Will, Sarah, and their two children Georgia (McKenna Roberts) and Henry (Noah Cottrell). With Will Sawyer’s security savvy and the technological advances within the building, the massive skyscraper is the safest mega-structure in the world…until it isn’t.
Will Sawyer’s friend and former partner Ben (Pablo Schreiber), who got him this cushy gig, is actually working for an evil terrorist organization headed by Kores Botha (Roland Møller). Ben has tipped of some of Botha’s goons and they steal a tablet which gives Sawyer full access to The Pearl’s expansive security system. Thinking the building is empty, Botha and his team of goons set fire to The Pearl and disable its fire extinguishers. However, Sarah and her two children are stuck in the burning building and it’s up to the disabled Will Sawyer to muster up all of his strength and courage to break into the burning structure and save his family all the while evading Chinese police who think he’s in on the scheme and the heavily armed, ruthless terrorists.
What should a rather straightforward action flick gets bogged down with Rawson Marshall Thruber’s compulsion to keep adding twists to the bad guy’s scheme. Often you’re left wondering just what these bad guys are really after and the reason keeps shifting as the action escalates. Sometimes a film like Skyscraper is only as good as its villain, and in this case there’s such a rambling rotation of baddies that it perfectly encapsulates the film – scatterbrained and overstuffed. Roland Møller’s nefarious Botha is joined by Noah Taylor as Mr. Pierce, a mercenary posing as an insurance agent and a woefully underbaked role for an actor as good as Taylor, and Hannah Quinlivan as Xia, who oversees the technical aspects of this ludicrous terrorist plot.
The only reason to watch Skyscraper is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who once again anchors a rather bad action movie. It’s a more interesting role than Johnson’s usual roster of sturdy he-men who blend empathy and excellence because of the layers of vulnerability added to the character. He’s disabled from losing the leg and his history leaves him unwilling to pick up a gun. Will Sawyer is tasked with coming up for various ways to enter the building, evade terrorists, and rescue his family. These solutions are frequently ridiculous but they are the one aspect of Skyscraper that doesn’t feel entirely derivative. But poor Neve Campbell, who is left here with the thankless role of generic wife and mother in peril. She deserves so much better than this.
Between reuniting with Rawson Marshall Thurber and reuniting earlier this year with San Andreas director Brad Peyton on Rampage, it’s obvious that Dwayne Johnson has a certain sense of loyalty to the directors he likes. That being said, I do wish that the superstar would find a better pedigree of director to trust with his mega-blockbusters. Rawson Marshall Thruber has never been impressive as a director of comedy or action, and there isn’t much improvement presented in the set pieces of Skyscraper. The action is choppy and overflowing with unconvincing CGI. It’d be easier to overlook the shortcomings of characters and plot had Skyscraper been able to deliver one or two knockout action sequences and yet it doesn’t. Dwayne Johnson’s loyalty to mediocre filmmakers may come around and hurt his intensely loyal fanbase especially if he continues to star in films that fail to capitalize on his larger than life persona.
Skyscraper is a big budget B-movie. It’s a mashup of The Towering Inferno and Die Hard that doubles down on dumb at so many moments that it’s hard to believe that the film is headlined by the world’s biggest movie star and a budget equal to many nations’ annual GDP. At its best, it’s passable fun as long as you don’t allow yourself to expect too much from this type of movie. Don’t think too much about the events of Skyscraper because the people making it obviously didn’t think too much. But hey, finally there’s an action blockbuster that extols the greatness of duct tape and the immense power of turning off a device and turning it back on.
A big, dumb B-movie with the world’s biggest movie star, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson can’t save Skyscraper from its ludicrous plot but the mega-star does add a certain level of charm to inane action.