A ludicrously breezy Die Hard love letter.
Everyone likes Die Hard, it’s just a rule of thumb, one of the world’s constants. Like gravity, for example. The undying love for the seminal blockbuster has inspired many a mundane action flick, which funnily enough are quite often advertised with a pull quote saying “Die Hard in *insert environment*” – Lockout, I’m looking at you. But taking inspiration from a classic is not a bad thing at all, especially when filmmakers adequately pay their tributes. That’s exactly what The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson, has been doing in his uber-insta marketing in the lead up to Skyscraper‘s release, outright saying it’s a homage to Die Hard and The Towering Inferno. But, as is so often the case, the megastar’s latest big picture has the heart of someone who loves Die Hard, but is missing the capabilities of those who made it.
Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) runs a small insurance company out of his garage following an accident in the marines, leaving him an amputee. Having been hired to assess the near-monolithic addition to Tokyo’s metropolis, which so happens to be the tallest building in the world (by a frankly ridiculous margin), he is thrown into a conspiracy which places him in a frightening situation. He has to get to the top of the burning building to save his wife (Neve Campbell) and kids, and stop the bad guys.
As its been said, the filmmakers evidently have an affinity for action movies of old, while also taking cues from modern outings like MI: Ghost Protocol. There’s a tall building, there’s bombs, there’s a disagreeable police chief, there’s an eastern European bad guy, and the man who owns the stupid tower is Asian (Chin Han). Again, it’s clearly trying to build on the legacy of John McClane’s adventure. One thing the film does very well, at least for the first hour, is impose just how tall this structure is on the audience. While the stakes of the height wear off eventually, its initial introduction would make anyone’s heart skip a beat, especially when our hero’s hand slips on a reckless ascent.
The action sequences, sporadically, are fantastically thrilling, but once again not quite on par with their inspirations. The film’s biggest downfall is its abysmal script, filled to the brim with exposition, plot holes, pointless double crosses, and flat out awkward exchanges and deliveries from characters that evoke many an embarrassed giggle.
Campbell deserves credit as a well-performing member of the cast, making herself known as an important player in the plot, a great fact considering these films are so often about a one-man rescue mission. The rest of the cast however veer between extremely boring and straight up terrible. The worst offender is Noah Taylor’s seemingly mysterious Mr. Pierce, delivering each irritatingly inquisitive line with a hilarious vacancy.
But what does the film have that others don’t? The Rock. The people’s champion, he is an admirably game performer in just about any film he’s in, and that’s no different here (especially as he produced it). Johnson’s on typically hulkish yet charming form, although more vulnerable than we’re used to which is a refreshing change for such a domineering superstar. If you’re concerned about the logistics of his artificial leg in the film, director/writer Rawson Marshall Thurber (there’s a mouthful) is very sure to deal with it tastefully and often comically, resulting in it becoming a normality – which is exactly what it needed to be.
While dealing in some heavy-going action and language for a generous 12a, Skyscraper is a mediocre but by no means unenjoyable popcorn flick. For a fairly short and sweet 102 minutes, you get to see plenty of The Rock climbing tall buildings and beating up baddies. Roll with the mind-blowingly illogical plot-holes and nonsense, roll with the cheesy, corny villains and just turn off, and you’ll find yourself having more fun than you’d expect.