Movie Review: Skyscraper

Dwayne Johnson again is the best part of an otherwise forgettable action film

Skyscraper (Mrakodrap)
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber
With Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han. Roland Møller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, Hannah Quinlivan

A single-word title can be a hint that a film is a bit generic. The title Skyscraper plus the name of action star Dwayne Johnson tells you almost all you need to know. Add in the name of Chinese-owned film studio Legendary, and you can guess at an Asian setting.

This time, Dwayne Johnson plays a security analyst named Will Sawyer who is an expert in tall buildings. He is in Hong Kong to assess the fire safety systems on the world's new tallest building, called the Pearl.

Of course, things turn bad rather quickly, and Skyscraper becomes an old-school disaster film in the mold of Towering Inferno and Die Hard, with a bit of Orson Welles' Lady from Shanghai thrown in to show that writer / director Rawson Marshall Thurber studied film history somewhere along the way.

The coming attractions trailers give away bits of most of the key action scenes, so it should be no surprise that the main plot involves a fire in the skyscraper. And lots of people with guns.

The plot is actually the film's weakest point, as the reasons behind all the sabotage and gun play are a bit hard to fathom even after the cursory explanations. Much of the explanation is just techno mumbo jumbo that even a non-expert can see through. The characters explain it all rather fast in between action scenes, leaving no time for the audience to examine it before more shootings and explosions deflect attention.

There are some truly massive plot holes, which one needs to overlook if one is going to enjoy the basically nonstop action once the building safety assessment goes south. The building's expensive computer systems are about as secure as the average phone, for example. And the building's fire safety system is a joke. The filmmakers don't even seem to understand how sprinklers work. They generally don't need to be turned on by a computer.

Another charismatic performance by Dwayne Johnson keeps the film from sinking, though. He is joined by former horror queen Neve Campbell as his wife, Sarah. Campbell has largely been absent from the big screen since Scream 4 in 2011, but had a recurring role in House of Cards on TV.

Sarah at least is a fully developed character, with a strong nature when she needs it.

Johnson and Campbell together create a believable couple, and provide a hook for the audience to become involved in the action. But why she and their kids have to tag along for the safety assessment is yet another gaping plot hole.

The plot requires Will Sawyer to have to battle the bad guys mostly single-handedly and also to go in and out of the fire multiple times in a spectacular manner. Dwayne Johnson can easily handle that aspect of the film.

Director Rawson Marshall Thurber previously made comedies, DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, Meet the Millers and Central Intelligence, the latter also with Dwayne Johnson.

His directing for an action film is passable, but his script is a bit too dry. Johnson has a good comic sense, especially when he pokes fun at himself. In Skyscraper, he just has a few jokes about duct tape.

They don't provide the memorable catch phrases that the film needs.

The design of the towering building itself is impressive, and one of the film's pluses. The ultramodern structure has an indoor forest, its own renewable power system, and lots of high-tech add ons.

All of the building's features eventually come into play, making the building more than just part of the background.

But action film fans won't be able to escape the feeling they have seen all of this before, and that none of the twists or revelations was exactly a surprise. 

Skyscraper has its share of thrills and suspense, but in the end is forgettable. It is one of those films that as soon as you leave the theater, you can't recall exactly why there was so much fuss on the screen.

Johnson, formerly known as The Rock, has been busy. This film is not as good as Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, The Fate of the Furious or arguable even the monster film Rampage. But it is a shade better than Baywatch.

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