“Skyscraper” is the third big-budget action movie starring Dwayne Johnson to open in the last seven months. But audiences still flock to see The Rock – and this latest effort is destined to be a sure-“fire” hit.
Johnson plays Will Sawyer, a former FBI op turned building safety expert who travels to Hong Kong to inspect the tallest structure in the world, The Pearl (miraculously 220 floors high). The residential upper section is set to open to the public very soon. Will’s wife Sarah (played by Neve Campbell) and their two young kids tag along. They are the first family to stay in one of these high, high-tech apartments.
But shortly into their visit (and not long into the movie) there’s a problem: Sawyer is double-crossed and an enemy of the building’s developer executes a plan that includes setting The Pearl on fire. So John’s character must do what practically all of Johnson’s characters have to do at some point: Save the Day.
“Skyscraper” is one of the more violent PG-13 movies of recent years. Five minutes don’t go by without someone getting shot, stabbed or falling to a fiery death. An early fight scene between Johnson (whose Will lost a leg about a decade ago) and a former FBI colleague is pretty intense and well executed.
But the scene-stealers are the showcase action sequences – Johnson attempting to jump from a crane onto the high rise, Johnson scaling down the building using, basically, rope and duct tape – all while the structure is ablaze. This is “Towering Inferno” meets “Die Hard” – on steroids.
And it works. Even though the majority of “Skyscraper” is CGI, the visuals are strong enough that you actually believe Johnson’s Sawyer is pulling this stuff off. Audiences will unquestionably be gasping, yelling and screaming throughout the perilous moments.
But what’s most impressive about “Skyscraper” is the fact that writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber (“Central Intelligence”) takes this material so seriously. The threats feel real. Johnson doesn’t give his best performance ever here, but it’s nice to see him play a character that doesn’t constantly crack corny one-liners – or is constantly flashing his billion dollar smile. Humor is kept to a bare minimum. And it’s great to see Campbell back. She’s brings a believability to the wife/mom character (a rarity in male-dominated action flicks). And she also gets to share some of the hero spotlight from Johnson.
The plot is very simple (and kinda ridiculous). And because of the tone you can’t characterize “Skyscraper” as a “fun” moviegoing experience. But I found myself locked into this film more than I could’ve imagined.
Thurber and Johnson are already set to work again. “Red Notice” (with Gal Gadot) is scheduled for a 2020 release. Let’s hope that one soars as well. In the meantime…
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Skyscraper” gets a B.
Running Time: 102 min.