Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Pablo Schreiber, Noah Taylor, Roland Møller, Hannah Quinlivan, McKenna Roberts, Kevin Rankin, Byron Mann, Matt O’Leary, and Chin Han
A father goes to great lengths to save his family from a burning skyscraper.
“This is stupid” – Dwayne Johnson’s hostage rescuer turned one-legged towering building inspector mutters to himself as he is about to rappel down the titular skyscraper. Yes folks, writer and director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s Skyscraper (this marks the second time the filmmaker has collaborated with the most active and debatably charismatic actor in Hollywood, having previously worked on the script for the buddy action-comedy that co-starred Kevin Hart, Central Intelligence) is self-aware; it’s loud, bursting with CGI, chaotic, dumb fun that seems to know exactly what to do with The Rock.
Skyscraper is the 80s/90s throwback action vehicle I, and assumedly many others, always felt the worldwide icon was suited for, yet for whatever reason never fully happened until now. He’s done everything from a string of Disney children flicks to more laid-back comedic affairs to trying to crack the video game adaptation code, but never a movie that I can with confidence say was something I would have entered Blockbuster in my younger years and snatched off the shelf because it looked brainless and awesome. Simply put, these are the kinds of movies Dwayne will hopefully do more of, as it’s not a bad thing to embrace the tropes of yesteryear when the package they are being delivered in is as well-executed as the numerous showstopping spectacle sequences (distracting green screen be damned) on display here.
Unless you literally avoid all technology, it’s pretty much impossible to not be aware of the film’s centerpiece slice of over-the-top craziness where, in an effort to gain entry into the building where his family is stranded in a fire engulfing the first 90-something floors, Dwayne makes the truest definition of a leap of faith, hurling his chiseled frame from a crane all the way through one of the glass windows. We can argue the logistics of this preposterous stunt all we want, but nothing changes the exhilaration elicited witnessing such heroic, throwing caution to the wind bravery. The good news is that Skyscraper doesn’t let up from there, consistently keeping the thrill-ride at such a high velocity that the aspects I absolutely hate about the movie fade away into the background. However, there is one major set piece towards the end that, while definitely a rousing piece of action, doesn’t live up to its full potential and unfortunately, comes across as a pale imitation of the much more insanely crowd-pleasing climax in John Wick: Chapter 2.
Aside from stealing concepts from classics such as The Towering Inferno and Die Hard, Skyscraper attempts a mild degree of freshness by giving Dwayne, who might be the most physically intimidating man on earth, a physical handicap in the form of a missing leg replaced by a prosthetic. The film’s opening flashback actually shows how the hostage situation went down wrong and inflicted irreparable damage just to cram in a few more genre clichés and let us know that the surgeon (played by Neve Campbell) went on to become his wife and fathered his twin children. Call it happiness born out of tragedy, but it is sappy and makes for some unintentional humor.
The villains are just as equally hilarious, often given terrible lines and generic motives, seemingly existing only to doublecross each other nonstop. One of the only glaring flaws in Skyscraper (not counting just how cliché ridden the whole experience is, as in this case it’s actually more of a welcome and endearing quality) is that during some of Dwayne’s big moments, the movie cuts away to a conversation or some minor development between all of its stereotyped, bland goons. There is seriously a scene where a character is dying only for the movie to interrupt itself halfway with maybe two doses of plot development regarding the enemies, so that by the time we’re back all there is to notice is the jarring transitions instead of being able to find the smallest bit of empathy for what is occurring on screen.
Anyway, before getting sidetracked mentioning all of the silliness present in terms of characters and narrative, as a physically disabled person myself. I actually like the way that the filmmakers handle an action hero with a metal leg. Naturally, there are a few moments where having only one leg saves the day for some ridiculous reasons, but more often than not, it’s a glossed over factor. Take the aforementioned heavily marketed death-defying jump; no one reminds us that this leap is going to be even more difficult considering the handicap or draws attention to it, allowing the character to be a badass in the purest form. And that’s how disabilities should be presented; there but also hidden and always trying to find the positives, which I guess in this case is holding open secured doors before they slam shut for eternity.
However, make no mistake about it, Skyscraper is mindless entertainment and a summer blockbuster spectacle done right. It knows what it is, embraces it, and just rolls with the kind of retro action thrills that made actors like Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger household names. To quote the great Jim Ross who commented many of The Rock’s matches as a professional wrestler, Dwayne here is a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, only it’s not a contest but rather a series of heroically dazzling set-pieces. Skyscraper may not reach the sky but it certainly doesn’t scrape the bottom of the barrel; it’s founded on propulsive momentum and never looks back.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com