Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Møller
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The Rock is one of the most likeable movie stars working today. But with great charisma comes great responsibility: his pecs and picture-perfect smile have had to sell every ridiculous concept Hollywood can throw at them, from video games coming to life and gargantuan gorillas to the world’s most implausible car stunts. All that was in the last year alone – a sign of just how overdrawn the Dwayne Johnson Charisma Bank has become, as Hollywood keeps on cashing cheques. Skyscraper, which pits The Rock against (you guessed it) a skyscraper, threatens to be one withdrawal too far.
The film sees Johnson play a war veteran who now inspects skyscrapers for a living – the least thought-out character biography since Air Bud. But when Will Sawyer is asked to inspect The Park, Hong Kong’s tallest building, Things Go Wrong and the whole thing ends up in flames. Framed for the accident and with his family in danger, he has to get back into the building to rescue them – all without mentioning the words Die Hard or Towering Inferno once.
Luckily for the script, Sawyer is a former FBI Hostage Rescue specilalist, so he’s more than capable of jumping into the flames. Except, in the film’s first misstep, he isn’t: the veteran previously lost his leg, leaving him unsure of himself. That, in itself, is a fantastic move towards bringing disability into mainstream media without making a fuss about it – his metal leg even saves his life a couple of times, like Indiana Jones and his hat. But the transition from insecure everyman to indestructible hero happens far too quickly, and the film is too preoccupied with rushing from set piece to set piece to worry about things like character development – or, for that matter, a believable family.
It’s fantastic to see Neve Campbell as Will’s wife, and she grabs the chances she gets to shine with both hands, but the movie isn’t concerned with depth, even short-changing us on the villain front (Roland Møller is left with little do other than look mean). To serve up non-stop action is no crime, but to leave us with an unrealistic hero and a forgettable bad guy is a serious offence – especially when the film you’re imitating gave us John McClane and Hans Gruber.
Central Intelligence director Rawson Marshall Thurber helms the CGI-heavy spectacle well enough – when Johnson is climbing the walls of the building in the first half, climaxing in that infamous crane leap, it’s genuinely tense entertainment. But the screenplay’s balance is lopsided, wasting time trying to come up with an unnecessarily convoluted plot. That, ultimately, is the film’s biggest failing: Thurber, despite having Dodgeball on his CV, plays everything with a straight face, stopping anyone having fun with the daft premise. More San Andreas than Fast & Furious, Skyscraper aims high, but like The Rock’s charisma credit, it stretches too far.
Skyscraper is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £11.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription – with a 7-day free trial.
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