Originally Published: July 16, 2018 1:19 p.m.
What do duct tape and a prosthetic leg have in common? One word: Action. Couple those with Dwayne Johnson’s indomitable brow and titillating new beard and you are ready for the latest installment of “The Good Guy Has to Run Into A Burning Building to Save Stuff.” Or “Skyscraper” for short. The duct tape and prosthesis are the co-stars who act as glue to hold this flick on its narrow magnetic rails.
Will Sawyer is a Marine veteran, ex-FBI agent and garage-based entrepreneur who has been awarded the contract to serve as security assessor for the world’s tallest building – the Pearl. Developer, Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), has a list of the investors who contributed to the building. The investors happen to be customers of a crime syndicate and the crime lords want the list. Of course, they are willing to destroy the building to prove their point. While Zhao remains arrogantly cradled in his penthouse fort, Sawyer’s wife and kids are trapped in the burning building and Sawyer will do anything to rescue them.
Action fans, an innocuous 200-floor elevator ride introduces you to every architectural feature that will fail in the film. Action is the star of the film and it is relentless. Backed by vivid CGI, the pacing is brisk without snoozing. The faults are the sloppy inconsistencies that grate on the suspension of disbelief. Faults that plague films with fatigued plots. Architects, engineers, electricians, security ops and fire safety techs will cringe at the many fail safes that are not in place in this state-of-the-art building. “Die Hard” did it better.
Family Audiences, what’s better than one military parent? Two military parents with super human strength and the courage of a lion pride. Neve Campbell’s Sara Sawyer is no lady in distress. Sara is a three-tour Naval combat surgeon who is winning at keeping her young kids focused and level-headed in a mega-high-rise fire. She didn’t get the memo that there’s some mob revenge plot at hand and that doesn’t matter. She sports the strongest back in the mommy game when she totes 10-year-old son, Henry (Noah Cottrell), across a narrow board with fiery plumes bellowing below. She gets to open two small cans of whoop ass in the film but writers don’t want to let that girl power get out of hand and upstage Big Daddy Dwayne’s crane climb. Along with the underused, Elfina Luk, who plays Sergeant Han, the film could have reveled in greater intellectual depth if these two women were in the titular roles.
McKenna Roberts and Noah Cottrell are the Sawyer children. The kids rise to the occasion for the intense physical nature of the film but they lack emotional connection to Johnson and Campbell. Johnson has two daughters in real life but fails to portray a father’s nature for full emotional impact. The lack of character development among the family members could have propelled this film from Blockbuster B-movie to “Die Hard” Remastered.
Johnson dumps his self-deprecating humor and assumes a demeanor that’s charged with sincerity and depth. Modeling his gait from real life Paralympian and the first American amputee to climb Everest, Jeff Glasbrenner, Johnson’s performance is well-paced and mature. This could easily be Johnson’s segue to Oscar-worthy, dramatic material with gravity and depth. For fans who take more than a passing fancy in Johnson’s professional career, you are denied his bare, flexing tattooed pecs but you are afforded an opening scene of bare legs and boxers.
While Campbell and Johnson are not believable as a married couple, they are remarkable as a team focused on a common goal: Rescuing something from the building. It just happens to be kids but their collective lack of camaraderie hints that it could easily be a recon mission for jewels, oil-paintings, blueprints or dinosaur eggs.
Read more about a real amputee’s accomplishments at this link.
Read more about security features in Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, in Dubai at this link.
Action Fans: 3 out 4 Empire State Buildings
Family Audiences: 2 out of 4 Sears Towers
People who need a plot and realistic action: 1 Eifel Tower