Film Review – Skyscraper (2018)

A patchy opening weekend for this Rock hype vehicle seems to suggest that even The People’s Champion is unable to carry a movie as second-hand and buffoonish as this. As likable and entertaining a presence as he is, there’s probably no saving this lightweight misfire and almost no chance of escaping the sense of disaster as the movie begins to literally crash and burn around the viewer. Riffing on the disaster movie classic The Towering Inferno, which itself borrowed from a pair of novels, Skyscraper dumps Dwayne Johnson onto the upper floors of a tower that is not only on fire but inconveniently filled with terrorists and contains his trapped and terrified family. Some have noted that, due to the protagonist’s amputee status, that this may be blithely referred to as Die Hard with one leg; actually, it’s closer to Die Hard with half an arse.

Johnson plays a one-legged security expert who specializes in idiot, fire, flood and terrorist-proofing skyscrapers and has won the contract to sign off on the world’s tallest building, The Pearl, in Hong Kong. Recommended for the job by an old FBI pal, Johnson has just ticked the last box on the tower’s checklist when a group of terrorist attacks. A narrative contrivance sees Johnson offsite while his wife and kids huddled on the upper levels above the fire and criminals run amok, forcing Johnson to scale the building, rescue his family and crack some terrorist heads in a whirlwind of hysterical action, obvious characterization, and by-the-numbers dialogue.

The run-of-the-mill action seems by caught in two minds, between knowingly camp and attempts at being genuinely thrilling. The end result feels both lacklustre and hammy, like a souped-up Carry On film interwoven with the off-cuts from an Irwin Allen television special. Occasionally it threatens to spill over into the so-bad-its-good territory, but frustratingly gets swamped and bogged-down in a miasma of half-competence. Some highlights include Johnson applying duct tape to the palms of his hands to stick to the building’s windows like a very muscly lizard and a denouement that watches like an underwhelming knock-off of The Man with the Golden Gun’s finale – itself a crushing disappointment.

Johnson’s leglessness is presumably intended to give his character a sense of humanity and fragility among the muscles, but mainly prompts a few moments of daft comedy. The site of the nicest man on the planet hanging upside down, 200 stories above the street, attached to a window frame by just his prosthetic leg is modestly amusing, but never as thrilling that sentence deserves.

Chris Banks |

Action, Drama, Crime | 15 | USA, 2018 | 12 July 2018 (UK) | Universal Pictures | Dir. Rawson Marshall Thurber| Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Pablo Schreiber, Noah Taylor, McKenna Roberts

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