Skyscraper (2018) Review

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Baby’s first Die Hard

Skyscraper (2018): 5 out of 10: The Rock hits a hard place (American box-office wise) with this Asian market disaster action movie.

You know Dwayne Johnson has appeared in what one would reasonably assume would be cinematic bombs (A Jumanji sequel and a movie based on the video game Rampage). Both those films turned out to be much better and more successful than they had any right to be. Even San Andreas brought more to the table than it would appear on the surface. Dwayne Johnson isn’t perfect (cough Baywatch cough) but overall The Rock seems to have a good eye for a solid property.

Teaming up again with Central Intelligence director Rawson Marshall Thurber (who also wrote), Skyscraper is a Towering Inferno/ Die Hard movie set in Hong Kong to guarantee Chinese financing and box office seems like a no brainer. Alas, this is a lazy, very paint by numbers affair clearly aimed at the low hanging fruit of the international market.

The movie centers on Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson), a former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader who now assesses security for skyscrapers. He is hired to assess the tallest building in the world, known as “The Pearl,” located in Hong Kong. Will, along with his family (wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and their possibly adopted children) moves into the residential section of the skyscraper, where he is overseeing security.

However, a group of terrorists led by Kores Botha (Roland Møller) sets the building on fire to steal a valuable hard drive. With his family trapped above the fire line and the authorities inexplicably believing he is responsible for the fire, Will must clear his name, rescue his family, and stop the terrorists.

The Good

The Good: There are some nice ideas in this film. Giving The Rock only one leg to even the odds and create some more dramatic tension in mook fights is a brilliant idea. Both The Rock and Neve Campbell, as his wife, are very good in this. The Rock is not phoning this one in and Neve Campbell makes a believable action mom. Hannah Quinlivan, as the second in charge bad gal, is an actual breakout star. One wishes she had been the head bad guy (see below).

The Bad

The Bad: The problem with pet peeves is if there are enough of them in a film, they really start adding up.

1. The head bad guy (Roland Møller) is a charismatic black hole. The key in remaking a Die Hard film is having a memorable bad guy. You know Tommy Lee Jones in Under Siege, Dennis Hopper in Speed, the snakes in Snakes on a Plane; Roland is playing a dumb white antagonist with even dumber motivation and an even dumber plan. (Set building on fire with you on the roof, ?????,profit). This is where you put your scenery chewing veteran star playing against type, not a man who one assumes is a minion cause he has zero personality and is dressed like everyone else.

2. The building is empty. Why would you make a Towering Inferno movie and not have people in the tower? Here is your chance to fill it with dozens of Hollywood and Hong Kong cinema B-listers with the occasional free trip to Hong Kong to be in a Rock movie A-lister cameo. Plus, all those cameos give us a chance to see the building pre-fire.

Setting the table, so to speak. We can see who is secretly a conman, who is deaf and won’t hear the alarm, who is banging his secretary in the side. This is often the best part of any disaster film. The fire is almost at the 82nd floor, means a lot more when there is a diabetic lady with a cat played by Goldie Hawn living there.

3. There is a crowd cheering The Rock on in front of a jumbotron like it was an Adam Sandler sports comedy. I cannot begin to emphasize how much I hate this technique. And to make matters even worse, the film doesn’t really earn this. Oh, and there is the cop from Die Hard that believes in The Rock and the cop from Die Hard that is convinced that he is in on it and neither of them should really even be in the movie.

4. I actually have a puzzling query. Did they originally cast an African American actress to play The Rock’s wife before casting Neve Campbell? I am asking because while McKenna Roberts and Noah Cottrell are actually quite good, as the kids they look nothing like the offspring of Dwayne Johnson and Neve Campbell.

5. I am sure that redoing Enter The Dragon’s climax looked good on paper.

The Ugly

The Ugly: There is a good scene where the insurance adjuster betrays the building owner and reveals himself to be part of the scheme. (He goes on to be beaten up by Neve Campbell.) It is a shocking moment… a genuine surprise…. Mainly because it negates any reason for The Rock to be there at all.

The Rock’s job was to test the safety and security features. The big deal was that to test them, all the protocols would be turned off so The Rock’s tablet would, in essence, control the building. The guy who hired The Rock was in on the scheme, but one assumes he needed The Rock to convince the insurance adjuster. But if the insurance adjuster also was in on the scheme, they could have had any mook do the Rock’s job and get the magic tablet.

After all, all the Rock does is give a simple PowerPoint demonstration and the two people looking into his credentials are both bad guys. There was no logical reason for the bad guys to hire someone outside of their crew to take control of the building’s security. In particular, someone like The Rock.

In Conclusion

In Conclusion: You know there are plenty of great foreign disaster movies. There are also some top-notch foreign Die Hard rip-offs. This movie reminds me of a foreign film from the eighties with the crowds cheering our heroes and the simple yet stupid plot. It is watchable, but it is nothing you haven’t seen better so many times before.

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