THE STORY – Former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader and U.S. war veteran Will Sawyer now assesses security for skyscrapers. He’s on assignment in China when he finds the tallest, safest building in the world suddenly ablaze, and he’s been framed for it. A wanted man on the run, Will must find those responsible, clear his name and somehow rescue his family, which is trapped inside the building, above the fire line.
THE CAST – Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Møller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber & Hannah Quinlivan
THE TEAM – Rawson Marshall Thurber (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 102 Minutes
By Matt Neglia
I think at this point, it is pretty safe to conclude that Dwayne Johnson is inhuman. Not only is he able to do stuff physically on the screen that for a normal human being would be considered impossible. Not only is he able to make a movie that routinely would be considered awful somehow watchable. No. He also has to go ahead and make what is basically his own version of “Die Hard” and in the face of impossible odds, he still makes it all look easy. Dwayne Johnson is the reason folks will be going to see “Skyscraper” and as always, he delivers even when the rest of the movie does not. But that’s just commonplace now for Dwayne Johnson, is it not?
Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) was an FBI hostage rescuer until an unfortunate incident left him with only one leg. However, despite such unfortunate circumstances, he was able to meet his wife Sarah (Neve Campbell), a surgeon who helped him to recovery. Now, 10 years later, they have two children and Sawyer is about to get the biggest deal of his life: head of security for the world’s tallest and safest skyscraper. The building, located in Hong Kong, comes under attack from a terrorist group who have a personal vendetta against the building’s owner Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han). Framed for the attack, with only one leg and with his family stuck inside the rapidly burning building, Sawyer must find a way inside to save his family.
You can always expect Johnson to show up and be ready to handle whatever physical challenges a new role throws his way. What struck me so much with “Skyscraper” was how well he was able to take the plight of not a hulking badass with extraordinary stamina and strength (Don’t worry, those qualities are not in short supply) but rather of a family man who like John McClane in “Die Hard” just wants to keep his family safe from the bad guys. Johnson is able to take his superhero-like qualities and apply them when need be but also adds a humanistic layer to his character Sawyer, which allows for us to empathize and root for him to succeed in his goal. It’s a balancing act that rests solely on Johnson’s shoulders and those muscular shoulders are certainly up to the task.
Unfortunately, that is really all of the praise I can throw “Skyscraper’s” way. Clunky moments of dialogue, implausible technology (You either go with it or you don’t), the fact that Johnson’s prosthetic leg only presents an issue for him when the plot calls for it and some very unconvincing action sequences. Other than Johnson, we’re supposed to be watching this for the thrills right? “Skyscraper” sadly features action sequences that are shot way too closely. The choreography is hidden behind quick edits, up close shots and dark cinematography (The film mostly takes place at night). Even the non-hand-to-hand action scenes involving structural leaps or acrobatics from Johnson are hindered by unconvincing special effects which only distract from the sheer scale of the disaster rather than enhance the action.
Johnson is still looking for that leading role in a film that will forever be synonymous with his name. He’s had memorable supporting roles but as a leading man, nothing has quite clicked yet. This may be his “Die Hard” but the role of Will Sawyer will not be one he will be remembered for, no matter how charming and dependable he is. Most of the time, no matter how effective he is, it’s typically the movie around him which lets him down and with it, our expectations as well. “Skyscraper” is yet another in a long line of standard action films from Hollywood’s biggest star which will give his devoted fans what they want but for those of us hoping for a little bit more from The Great One, we are once again left disappointed.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Dwayne Johnson turns in a surprisingly strong performance both in physicality and emotion.
THE BAD – Everything else.