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Sometimes you just have to ride that narrative wave…
Skyscraper is a balls out, dumb yet truly fun action ride where if you are over analyzing plot points, performances or all around logic then you’re just in the wrong goddamn place because this movie knows exactly what it is and it has no regrets about what it is trying to do.
Former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader and U.S. war veteran Will Ford (Dwayne Johnson) now assesses security for skyscrapers. On assignment in China he finds the tallest, safest building in the world suddenly ablaze, and he’s been framed for it. A wanted man on the run, Will must find those responsible, clear his name and somehow rescue his family who is trapped inside the building…above the fire line.
Let’s not make any mistakes on this one, from the writer/director of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story; Skyscraper will NEVER be mistaken for high art but that’s OK, because this ode to Die Hard, The Towering Inferno and a handful of other thrilling action classics knows exactly what it is. 102 minutes of intellectual diversion that we all need once in awhile.
To his credit, Rawson Marshall Thurber has gotten better and better over the years on staging action sequences. He’s usually cribbing from other people but at least he does it from some of the best and he’s gaining strength as a visual storyteller. There’s no excess or fat in the narrative, Thurber keeps it all as minimal as humanly possibly allowing the action to tell the story and not try to overdo it with any kind of convoluted plot points or ideas, he’s primary focus is to try and take us from one action set piece to another in this film. The Hong Kong setting and heavy reliance on a few familiar Chinese actors will also insulate this movie from any potential domestic failures as it really is designed for the overseas markets much more then the home grown ones.
While I’ll be the first to admit that the script is more than a little thin and the caliber of the cast drifts quickly into ‘straight to video’ territory after the biceps of our heroic lead have stopped flexing, but it all works and even successful gives us a little bit of a surprise not leaning on too many stereotypes along the way. It’s popcorn all the way, and while it never quite lives up to the films that it is so obviously referencing along the way, you can actually feel the love for them all as we follow our hero through this burning building.
Dwayne Johnson obviously has charisma for days and this film is no exception. As security expert Will Sawyer he swaggers on to the screen without ever even trying and he also gives the character some actual depth as a man critically wounded in his former career with the FBI, having lost a leg in the line of duty. It’s his version of John McClain from Die Hard as he makes Will Sawyer an everyman who gets shot, cut, bruised and battered along the way to accomplishing his goal. Granted had Bruce Willis been 6’4, 265lbs in the Die Hard movies they MAY have played out a little differently, but Johnson makes it his own and doesn’t apologize for anything along the way, because he’s a family man first…just don’t make him kick your ass.
Canada’s own Neve Campbell who we haven’t seen much of on the big screen these days does an admirable job in the wife/mother role in a film like this but thankfully it doesn’t play along any stereotypical lines because she’s also ex-Navy and not afraid to get a little proactive when it comes to looking out for her loved ones. Sadly after this the rest of the ensemble falls off of a cliff; Pablo Schreiber as his buddy Ben who brought him to China is barely there, while Noah Taylor gets criminally underused in a miscast part. Roland Moller gets to chew a little bit of the scenery in a fun ‘Hans Gruber-esque’ way throughout the film while Chinese actors like Tzi Ma, Chin Han and (American born) Byron Mann flesh out the ensemble.
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are first rate and the special features include Deleted & Extended Scenes with commentary by director Rawson Marshall Thurber, Six Behind The Scenes featurettes and a feature length commentary from director Rawson Marshall Thurber.
While I’ll admit that Skyscraper could have been a little more compelling then it ended up as, it really didn’t need to be. As much as studios have been hanging their hats on franchises and multi-layered universe spanning science fiction, sometimes it’s OK to have a man trying to save his family in a building on fire to be adequate if not ridiculously entertaining popcorn cinema.