Film Review: Skyscraper
Can you imagine a man the size, weight and girth of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson hanging from a nylon cord along the side of a 225-story high-rise? Now imagine the same character gingerly shuffling along a narrow ledge 100 floors above ground, with one wooden leg, to accomplish a save-the-day plan. Hard to picture, but writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s disaster movie pivots on the hope that the audience buys into this, and accepts that such a man can save his family trapped in a towering inferno.
Will Sawyer (Johnson) is a former member of the FBI’s hostage rescue team who now runs a small security agency. On the recommendation of his friend Ben, Sawyer’s firm has landed a plum assignment in Hong Kong. He is now the chief security advisor for The Pearl, the world’s tallest building, funded by billionaire Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han). At a height three times that of the Empire State Building, The Pearl is an engineering marvel, a security risk and an insurance agency’s worst nightmare.
While Sawyer is presenting his security assessment to Zhao, his wife, Sarah (Neve Campbell), and their two children are sightseeing in Hong Kong. Their excursion takes a dramatic turn when an international crime group takes over the building and sets it aflame.
The local police seems relieved to let Sawyer rescue his family. They watch from afar on television as he leaps from a crane into the burning building and comes sliding down the side of the glass façade. The action is barely impressive, though. The graphic and effects are sub-par, with the building design itself being the one impressive visual element.
Thurber does not invest a great deal in developing the villain’s motives. The bad guys are cardboard cutouts, with a scowling girl in all-black and a severe sweep of hair that irritatingly covers one eye being the silliest of all.
Johnson gathers all the intensity and sensitivity he can as the father and husband whose singular motivation is his family’s safety. Campbell turns in a solid supporting performance. For all its absurdity and disregard for logic, Johnson has you rooting for this do-or-die hero willing to take bullets and blows, fighting terrorists and flames, looking 200 floors down at certain death. With its gravity-defying hijinks, Skyscraper might be a bit hairy for someone with a fear of heights. Otherwise, it’s a predictable single-hero disaster event film.