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SKYSCRAPER gets 5.5/10 Rock hard

Skyscraper
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Roland Møller, Chin Han

5.5/10

I imagine Skyscraper is what you would get if Michael Bay was inspired by a “Hang in there Kitty” poster. A lot of dangling around from high places, while shit explodes for no good reason.

The run down is a little something like this. A decade after a fatal flaw in judgement costs him his position as a leader in a hostage rescue team and his leg, Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson), is on the verge for the biggest job for his small security company. Having examined the safety features of the world’s tallest new skyscraper, The Pearl, his assessment is fundamental to the insurance of the building. However, as he gives the final report on the megastructure, a team of mercenaries set fire to the upper levels of the building to cover an even more sinister scheme. Now Sawyer must brave a burning building, misguided police, and armed terrorists in an attempted to save his own trapped family.

Yeah, Skyscraper is extensively Die Hard in a fire.

OK, all writers stand on the shoulders of giants, drawing inspiration from the works that have proceeded them, but usually they are better at hiding their influences. Skyscraper’s script is a pastiche of numerous action films. Towering Inferno and Die Hard are the blindingly obvious influences, but Commando, Enter the Dragon, and True Lies all seem to have contributed. As such Skyscraper feels deeply derivative, even as it uses the new arcology setting of The Pearl to the best of its advantage.

Nor is this the only thing that deprives Skyscraper of oxygen. The hectic pacing is a mixed blessing, that doesn’t seem to be balanced right. The film is perfunctory rather than organic, moving in a clipped pace from one staged action sequence to the next. With those set pieces being so staged it is difficult for audiences to feel any genuine degree of tension or involvement with the characters, and despite the computerized effects detonating all around them its impossible to feel that the characters are ever in any peril. After all, as Rampage proved earlier this year, you really have to be a 50 foot kaiju to make us believe you can take on Dwayne Johnson and step away unscathed. As such the stakes are limited, as the audience really has no skin in the game.

The negatives masks, the positives here. That fast pacing makes Skyscraper a sleek creation, set on delivering its story in as efficient a method as it can. The there is Johnson himself, who is perfectly at home in the action genre and always brings something entertaining to the screen, both in stunts and in terms of his personality. He sells the character of Sawyer, never making you question too intently that he can McGyver his way out of certain fiery death, or has the strength to chop through steel cables.

Even from a B-grade perspective, Skyscraper falls short of its action movie potential, producing an average film rather than the rollicking fun ride it is promising. Not terrible, just incapable of overcoming its flawed foundations to tower above the rest.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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