Ridiculous escapism continues this summer with Dwayne Johnson’s (aka The Rock) newest action thriller “Skyscraper,” written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber who gave us “We’re The Millers” and “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.” Unfortunately, his latest film doesn’t have the same comedic punch as these films, making it just a standard summer action film. Think of it as “Backdraft” meets “The Towering Inferno” and all the “Die Hard” films combined, but without the intensity.
Will Sawyer (Johnson) is a former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader and U.S. war veteran, suffering physically and mentally from a job gone deadly wrong ten years ago. Losing his leg, but meeting the love of his love, marrying, and having two adorable children, Sawyer now has a new life and career. As a securities specialist, he is hired to approve a new building’s security and safety measures for insurance purposes. This Hong Kong building is the tallest in the world, pushing the envelope in every way, but Sawyer soon finds that there’s a conspiracy brewing that endangers his family. As he physically fights off bad guys, he watches as the building is burning with his family inside. He’s been framed and double-crossed, but he will go to any length to save his wife and children and clear his name including using duct tape. Yes, duct tape. It truly does do it all.
As you can already imagine, the bad guys are after something valuable and only Sawyer can save his family, but his wife, played by Neve Campbell, is one tough and smart woman, protecting her children and staying calm as a cucumber in the face of imminent death. It’s great to see more roles being created for women and lines uttered by younger girls that are not the stereotypical damsel in distress utterances. And Campbell and Johnson actually have some chemistry on screen making you believe in this family. The remainder of the cast, however, are stereotypical with Roland Moller playing Swedish Kores Botha, the muscle of the bad guys, and the tough as nails Hannah Quinlivan whose hair doesn’t tussle as she does.
“Skyscraper” misses the mark in what could have been a humorous action thriller. Johnson has the comedic timing to do so and we do see a few glimpses of that, but there are so many missed opportunities that you wonder if Thurber was really trying to make us believe in what we were seeing on the screen. The stunts are incredibly captivating as Sawyer drives a crane and swings a hook into a high floor of the building, jumping from this machine into the new opening hundreds of floors above, as he holds on with only one muscular arm. Using his prostethic leg in inconceivable ways, he then uses duct tape on his hands and feet to scale the outside of the building. Even his character audibly confides that it’s a stupid idea…which gets a chuckle out of the audience. But alas, the film takes itself too seriously and the ridiculousness is just that—ridiculous.
The body count is high in this one, but the gruesomeness is generally left out. It’s the camera angles and slick editing that create the intense moments in “Skyscraper,” but the suspense just can’t sustain itself as you look at your watch wondering if it’s been 2 hours. There are plenty of old-fashioned fight scenes, some of which I still can’t fully explain where Sawyer can’t outmuscle a slightly built man in one scene, only to take out 5 combat trained thugs in the next scene. But it’s Sarah (Campbell) that has one of the best punches of the movie which comes out of the blue making you cheer inside.
“Skyscraper” isn’t going to be remembered a year from now and Dwayne Johnson will not be the next John McClane’s “Die Hard.” It’s just a summer filler film, a way to get out of the summer heat and into a burning building to cool off.