Just Watched: SKYSCRAPER
I must say I came into this film with very low expectations. But having said that I came away quite surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
The best thing you can say about this film is also the worst thing you can say about it. This film is a shameless re-tread of DIE HARD with a large helping of THE TOWERING INFERNO.
Similar to the 1988 action classic from which SKYSCRAPER gets most of its inspiration, this 2018 mega-tall action spectacular focuses on a family-centric storyline. However, true to some middle of the range family focused actioners, like THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, the concept of family in SKYSCRAPER is distilled to feelings of tender togetherness, smiles, and the big arms of Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) engaging in PG-13 embraces with his loving but strong wife played by Neve Campbell.
In fact, most everything in the film can be rated as middle average to middle good. Johnson shows a wide range of acting prowess in this filn where he plays a disgraced US Marine who lost a leg below the knee now running a small security firm consulting on final preparations of The Pearl, a Hong Kong 200 storey skyscraper that will serve as playground and battleground for the drama ahead.
Along with Johnson and family for the ride is the billionaire mogul who owns the tower, played by Chin Han who is effective as the affable successful scion hiding a potentially dangerous secret as well as a gang of black clad terrorists who manage to somehow maintain some distinctiveness inspite being in a script that underuses them.
Underused also are a number of secondary relationships populated by characters who could have served more value if only the budget allowed for a film longer than 102 minutes. The result, again, is a middling execution of overachievement.
In fact, a lot of things in the film exceed what should have been a mediocre film on paper.
The Pearl megatall tower, for example, was designed as a no-limits exercise alongside Adrian Smith, the man who designed the Burj Khalifa. The action scenes have a relish and a sense of danger to them that screams fun at the movies at the same time. Actors in the film push every line as if it matters, almost making up for a couple of preposterous events that occur in the final act.
Even the writer-director, Rawson Marshall Thurber, seemed determined to make the most intricate film possible given the concept injecting the film with a combination of high-exposition and high pacing that accelerates quickly and never lets up, while spreading out hero duty to not just Johnson but also his onscreen wife, children, and also to a team of Hong Kong detectives who try to resolve the situation.
Marshall also invokes the use of another tool that can elevate a middling concept. Throughout the film, Chin Han’s character is depicted to be in possession of a fancy USB drive that we also learn is the main obssession of the villains of the film. The energy of this focus on a mysterious object is elevating for SKYSCRAPER, yet its explanation - which in my view will leave viewers guffawing at its ludicrous nature - will take a few levels off the film’s height.
That I think is an apt description of SKYSCRAPER. It’s a much bigger and better movie than expected, but misses out on a top most element that would have taken it to dizzying heights.