Review: “Skyscraper”

2.5 out of 5 stars.

Skyscraper” is a take on “Die Hard” that is exactly what you’d think it is, and at the same time, doesn’t deliver enough.  It’s diverting for a couple of hours, sure, but everything about it is mediocre, from the lazy title to the characters to the story to even the action scenes, where a movie like this should really shine.

“Skyscraper” is written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who previously worked with star Dwayne Johnson on the terrible buddy comedy “Central Intelligence.”  Here, Johnson plays Will Sawyer, a former member of the FBI’s hostage team unit until an incident severely injured him and resulted in his leg being amputated.  Now he has a wife, Sarah (Neve Campbell) and twins Georgia and Henry (McKenna Roberts and Noah Cottrell) and has his own business assessing security in buildings.  He is invited by a friend and former FBI member to inspect security for the Pearl, a skyscraper in Hong Kong that is the tallest building in the world.  The structure’s creator, Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han) is getting ready to open the building’s upper half, which contains luxury apartments for civilians.  But terrorists led by gangster boss Kores Botha (Roland Moller) infiltrate the building and set one of the floors on fire, all part of a scheme to get at something that Zhao Long Ji has.  Will’s family is staying in the building’s residences near where the fire is set, so Will uses his old skills to get into the skyscraper, save his family, and stop the terrorists.

Will Sawyer and Zhao Long Ji admire the Pearl at the top of the skyscraper.

Here, Johnson plays the kind of character he’s become best known for: a family man who will stop at nothing to protect his loved ones, and who also has mad skills and will kick your butt if you get in his way.  He’s good at doing just that, and his presence in this movie elevates material that may otherwise have been unwatchable.  But Campbell is the real surprise as his wife Sarah, a combat surgeon, proving her prowess as an action star with some fierce skills of her own.  Unfortunately, however, the rest of the cast and character lack personality, from the villain to the police officers on the ground.  A solid villain, even an over-exaggerated one, would have made this movie that much better; instead, we get a rather bland and generic gangster type.

The story is thin, but that’s to be expected from a movie that’s basically about a man fighting bad guys in a skyscraper.  But the execution should have been more exciting.  There are few real thrills in this movie.  Instead, we get a lot of Johnson performing wildly impossible feats, like jumping off a super crane and scaling the outside of the building using duct tape (if this movie is anything, it’s a great ad for duct tape) that just kind of make you chuckle.  There isn’t any great dialogue or memorable one-liners, and the visual effects aren’t impressive enough to compensate for everything else the movie lacks.

Don’t get me wrong, “Skyscraper” is entertaining, and occasionally fun.  But it feels like it’s just putting your through the paces, delivering the minimum to satisfy your expectations but not putting in the effort to do anything more.  No one expects these movies to be great, or to be game-changers, but they shouldn’t be so disappointing, and that’s what “Skyscraper” is.

Runtime: 102 minutes. Rated PG-13.

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