Upholding his reputation for being the biggest action star working today, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson plays Will Sawyer, a security assessor for skyscrapers, in his latest venture. The twist? His character is a former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader, and an amputee who is missing a leg. While on an assignment in Hong Kong assessing ‘The Pearl’ – the world's tallest, safest building – the architectural phenomenon suddenly goes up in flames. Will gets framed for the attack so now he must clear his name and rescue his wife (Neve Campbell) and children who have become trapped inside the building.
Johnson reunites with writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber (best-known for the comedy ‘Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story’) for ‘Skyscraper.’ As with their film ‘Central Intelligence’, the pair produce a somewhat entertaining blockbuster that will likely make a mint given Dwayne guarantees box office success.
Opening with a fairly standard action-y scene which shows how his character came to quit the FBI, the film proceeds to portray Will as a loving husband and father. While he investigates ‘The Pearl’, we see its snazzy high tech design via chic CGI effects. There are clichés that are obvious from a mile away, for example, the double-crossing friend and the untrustworthy Englishman, as well as inconsistencies in the lethality of the fires the characters come to be surrounded by, but then again, would you expect anything less?
Comparisons to ‘Die Hard’ began pretty much immediately after the first trailer for ‘Skyscraper’ was released, and the film alternates between homage and straight-up copying the classic. Story-wise, both are about men who have to rescue their family from terrorists in a building. Both protagonists are retired slash off-duty and highly skilled, and there’s even a boiler room-set scene in each film. On top of that, ‘Skyscraper’ duplicates the phenomenon that made ‘Die Hard’ revolutionary to the action genre, in that as opposed to having an indestructible hero, now you have a hero who gets the crap beaten out of him but keeps going regardless. The same happens in ‘Skyscraper’, with Dwayne, like Willis, patching himself up by whatever means necessary along the way (in this case, a running gag of the film is how applicable duct tape is to his wounds).
While it is interesting to see Johnson play a man more insecure than characters he usually plays, with his missing leg causing him to limp while at the start of the film he expresses lack of confidence that his small company is worthy of assessing ‘The Pearl’, it’s never really believable. Johnson’s recognisability and popularity almost work against him. The stakes are never really high because you know everything is going to be fine (Come on, they’re not going to kill off Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) and thrill factor is lost as a result. Going back to ‘Die Hard’, what worked for that film was Bruce Willis wasn’t a star yet – you didn’t know what fate awaited him. He had to fight for and earn audience acclaim and his journey was more gripping as a result.
‘Skyscraper’ neither exceeds nor disappoints. It simply meets expectations. We have yet to see the film that proves that Johnson genuinely does have acting chops.