Film Review: Skyscraper

Security expert must rescue his family from a towering deathtrap in a solid Dwayne Johnson vehicle.
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Fans of The Rock may have some initial doubts about Skyscraper, a darker-than-usual outing for Dwayne Johnson. But the star delivers what his followers want, even with a few peculiar choices on his part. Basically Die Hard with a family and fire, Skyscraper will handily fill in the gap until the next Johnson moneymaker arrives.

A grim opening finds Johnson as Will Sawyer, a hostage negotiator whose empathy results in an explosion that takes off one of his legs and scars his partner Ray (Kevin Rankin). Flash forward, and Will's a building security expert who married his surgeon, Sarah (Neve Campbell). They and their two young kids, Georgia (McKenna Roberts) and Henry (Noah Cottrell), are in Hong Kong for the opening of the world's tallest skyscraper, The Pearl, a long-held dream project of gazillionaire mogul Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han).

Writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber gives Will and viewers a tour of the marvels inside Zhao's building: waterfalls, helicopter pads, maglev elevators, and a fail-safe fire=protection system okayed by Will himself. All he has to do is inspect an off-site computer center and The Pearl will be ready to open.

But crooks led by icy killer Xia (Hannah Quinlivan, phoning it in) steal Will's iPad containing passwords to all of the building's features. While Kores Botha (Roland Møller) and his killers detonate a huge fire inside The Pearl, Xia's team disables the building's sprinklers and fire suppressants.

Set up by Ray as the fall guy for the scheme, Will has to fight his way back inside The Pearl to rescue his family—leading to a much-derided stunt in which he leaps from a construction crane through an upper-floor Pearl window, a move that apparently breaks the laws of physics.

Johnson will break a lot more before Skyscraper is over, yet still won't alienate his fans. If they accept him as an amputee (admittedly, the whole issue is handled quite tastefully), then what's a few gravity felonies? Whirring turbine blades, kicks and punches, colossal falls and the occasional explosion may slow Will Sawyer down, but nothing will make him quit.

Thurber, better known for comedies like Central Intelligence and We're the Millers, resorts to surprisingly pedestrian plotting. Unlike the original Die Hard, Skyscraper lacks the twists and reversals that might surprise or at least engage viewers. Nor is the villain here much of a threat. And the movie's Asian elements feel laughably tacked on.

Roberts and Cottrell are fine as the kids, while Neve Campbell really throws herself into her role as supermom. The other performers are as generic as Skyscraper's plotting. The action sequences that aren't about explosions focus primarily on Johnson battling the building's structural collapse, which is frankly not that inventive or exciting.

You could find similar faults with Thurber's comedies and yet still come away from them more or less satisfied. And The Rock retains his uncanny ability to elevate his material. Through sheer will he makes it seem possible that he could shimmy up a fraying rope outside a burning building's glass wall while carrying his own leg.

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