This scenario is precisely why a person should work relentlessly on their upper body. Ten years ago, FBI agent Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) lost his leg on a screwy hostage rescue attempt. As life can often work, Sawyer lost something significant, yet gained something magnificent in the process; meeting his wife, combat medic Sarah (Neve Campbell), while being operated on in the hospital. In the present day, the two have two beautiful children and Will runs a successful, if modest, security operation.
That’s about to change as he’s put onto a big opportunity by an old friend and bureau squad mate in Ben (Pablo Schreiber). The city of Hong Kong is now the home of the biggest Skyscraper in the world known as “The Pearl”, a 240-story behemoth of business, entertainment, and soon—residence, courtesy of mogul Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han). And it needs a top-notch security system, one of which Will can provide. Soon after he closes the deal, the building’s security is immediately compromised by invaders who are after powerful intel Ji possesses, and they do not mind setting his creation ablaze to obtain it. Everyone, including Sawyer’s family, is in danger. To save them, it’s going to be a long climb to the top.
When it comes to injecting new juice into diminishing franchises or playing off of another individual, there’s none that do it quite as well as Dwayne Johnson. However, as it pertains to his entirely solo driven filmography, or work where he’s asked to carry a lot, “The Great One” has been less than spectacular. Maybe it says little that Skyscraper is his best top-billing movie since Snitch. Still, being able to say that is a minor victory and as a result, Skyscraper is moderately successful at serving up enough high-rise moments to leave satisfied.
There’s a simple way to know what type of tone a Rock film is going to be by looking at his facial hair. If he’s rocking a clean-shave or a light goatee dyed to hide his age, the flick is going to be a light one. If he’s sporting the stubble or the full-on gray style, the film is going to be—or try to be—emotional and grounded. Johnson’s facade is appropriately peppered here, which means a moderate level of seriousness. Getting away from his comedy focus is writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Central Intelligence, DodgeBall: A True Underground Story).
Don’t worry, the overall bonkerness and easy one-liners eventually manifest, though this is—initially—a grounded presentation from the director. The first scene is appropriately dark; and first 20-30 minutes set up the Sawyer family well enough for the audience to care enough once things go haywire. This is a heavy computer-generated production, not filmed in Hong Kong but in Vancouver. Thurber does OK enough to make a viewer think the former, and the setting isn’t so much the star as the massive construction is. The $125 million budget is put to good use, although Skyscraper begins to carry the feeling that it ran out by the end. A climatic ending homage to Enter the Dragon and The Lady from Shanghai is done well despite this, and it’s one of a few scenes that get physical that Thurber confidently directs.
When it’s all said and done, Skyscraper may be the most memeable movie of 2018, a fate that was probably predetermined back in February with the Internet’s hilarious assessment of the poster. Truly spectacular some of the things that can be done with some duct tape, love, and a prosthetic leg. Even with the liberal application of exposition, I couldn’t confidently tell you why the foreign baddies are after this flash drive outside of “bad guys do bad things and want revenge.” The few twists that arise are visible from space. This exists purely for summer jollies. If a person wants to see the money shots plastered on said poster and TV spots, or Johnson hold up a fraying chasm while screaming “I can’t hold it any longer!”while the camera focuses on his pained face, or the action star jumping through a turbine moving at unbelievable speeds after shutting off some controls, Skyscraper‘s the film for them.
The biggest movie star literally and figuratively in Hollywood, many of the characters Johnson (especially in recent years outside of a few) has played do carry a little sameness to them. In this movie, his Will Sawyer isn’t necessarily vastly different from what he’s done, but he does have more to do here from an acting perspective than what is usually seen. It helps him that he’s nerfed substantially, and Saywer isn’t some unstoppable brute, but a man with everyman fears. His on-screen family, led by Neve Campbell in a welcomed and rare silver screen appearance, are believable as a unit and likable. All that can be asked for.
Skyscraper doesn’t touch the sky of the rarefied air of movies it takes inspiration from. But as pure summer ridiculousness goes, viewing leaps can and have been taken on worse.
Photo credits go to dailymail.co.uk, cgmeetup.net, film-book.com, and IMDB.com.
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