I want The Rock to succeed so badly, but dammit does he seem incapable of making a good film…
“Skyscraper” stars Dwayne Johnson as a paraplegic father who must save his wife (Neve Campbell) and kids after they get caught in a fire in the recently-constructed tallest building in the world. Chin Han, Roland Møller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, and Hannah Quinlivan as Rawson Marshall Thurber writes and directs.
I really like Dwayne Johnson (like, how can you not with that smile), but the dude just can’t seem to find a good film to match his abilities and charm. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is great fun, but the awful likes of “Baywatch” and “Rampage” come to mind quicker when I think of his recent career. “Skyscraper” is a notch above those two as it is a clear “Die Hard” rip-off that works on some levels, but all-too-often it’s just beat-after-beat of scenes we’ve seen before.
Rawson Marshall Thurber has made a career writing and directing comedies, and I actually enjoy all his main films to some degree (“DodgeBall” and “We’re the Millers” especially). There’s something slightly commendable about him wanting to go outside his comfort zone and direct an action thriller and it isn’t a total misfire, at least from the direction standpoint. Every shot of the raging inferno as it engulfs the wondrous structure has a sort of chaotic beauty to it, and there are actually an emotional moment or two (pandering or not) that had me get a tickle in my throat. There is also a fight scene that was natural sound, as opposed to being overlaid with faux dramatic music, so I appreciated that.
Script-wise, this film is just a rinse and repeat of things we’ve seen before. If “Die Hard” and “The Towering Inferno” had a love child and that child lost a leg, it would be this. There are even lines and framed shots taken directly from those films, and I’m not sure if it was Thurber’s intention to pay homage or just steal. You know what moves the characters are going to make before they even do, and there’s nothing that is mentioned in the first 10 minutes that won’t come back into play in the final 15.
Johnson’s performance is solid enough but he isn’t even too much to actually do besides swing and shimmy alongside the building. Neve Campbell is good as his wife and is arguably given the most to do, and isn’t just the damsel in distress role.
Johnson is rarely the direct problem in his films (even in “Baywatch” his charm occasionally bleeds through) but here it is just him getting caught in a situation, doing something wild to swing from A to B and then getting caught back up in another problem. Sidney Poitier once told a young Denzel Washington that “if they see you for free all week, they won’t pay to see you on the weekend” and Johnson should take note; he puts himself out there so much lately (including two feature releases in just three months) that we may be reaching Johnson-overload.
“Skyscraper” is the definition of a *fine* movie. It has some thrills and more than enough plot twists, and even if I’m getting annoyed he can’t seem to find a good vehicle I’m still a fan of Johnson (plus, again, Neve Campbell is really great whenever she shows up in things). If you are an under-demanding filmgoer or a true Rock stan then maybe there’ll be enough here for you. Or, you know, you could just go watch “Die Hard.”
Critic’s Grade: C