“Skyscraper” is the third big-budget action movie starring Dwayne Johnson to hit in just over 6 months time.
Johnson plays Will Sawyer, a former FBI op turned building safety expert who travels to Hong Kong to inspect the tallest structure in the world, The Pearl (an impressive 220 floors high). The residential upper section is set to open to the public very soon. Will’s wife Sarah (played by Neve Campbell) and their two young kids tag along. They are the first family to stay in one of these high, high-tech apartments.
The plot is very simple; basically copying “Die Hard” and mixing it with “Towering Inferno”. The problem here while they use “Die Hard” as a ploy to sell it they also strip the character development. Johnson and Campbell’s character’s get very little back story revealing how they met. The first 15 minutes are decent with the set up they give you something to care about. They spend quite a bit of time going around and up the “Skyscraper” and showing it off with all of its bells and whistles (kind of giving it a “Star Trek”: Enterprise feel”) but once they introduce the rest of the cast you can almost pick out who is playing who in “Die Hard”.
“Skyscraper” is one of the more violent PG-13 movies of recent years. Five minutes don’t go by without someone getting shot, stabbed or falling to a fiery death. An early fight scene between Johnson (who’s Will lost a leg about a decade ago) and a former FBI colleague is pretty intense and well executed.
But the scene-stealers are the showcase action sequences, Johnson attempting to jump from a crane onto the high rise, Johnson scaling down the building using, basically, rope and duct tape all while the structure is ablaze. This is “Towering Inferno” meets “Die Hard” with some: “Mission Impossible” thrown in.
While it works to entertain it plays like a spoof of sorts. Even though the majority of “Skyscraper” is CGI, the visuals are strong enough that you actually believe Johnson’s Sawyer is pulling this stuff off. Audiences will unquestionably be gasping, yelling and screaming throughout the perilous moments.
But what’s most impressive about “Skyscraper” is the fact that writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber (“Central Intelligence”) takes this material so seriously. The threats feel real. Johnson doesn’t give his best performance ever here, but it’s nice to see him play a character that doesn’t constantly crack corny/yet awesome one-liners, or is constantly flashing his billion dollar smile. Humor is kept to a bare minimum. It’s great to see Campbell back. She’s brings a believability to the wife/mom character (a rarity in male-dominated action flicks). She also gets to share some of the hero spotlight from Johnson, basically turning the building off and on.
The 3D format here is decent during the intro and quite a few of the action scenes more for depth but the mirror scenes are especially cool.
One thing that doesn’t copy “Die Hard” has to due with the cops who are basically useless. They spend much of the movie just staring at the “Skyscraper” waiting for someone else to step in and help and when the Rock shows up to climb a 90 ft crane in just a few minutes to somehow jump from it to a hole in the side of the building the cops try to stop him instead of helping him. Campbell serves as a news bulletin of sorts near the end to let the cops know what’s going on (lame rendition of McClane/Powel combo).
REVIEW SCORE/ C