“In order to be brave, we gotta be a little scared.”--Will Sawyer
My first thought about “Skyscraper” was that it looked dumb as a bag of rocks. And it is. But at least it’s a small bag.
I admit I liked this movie a lot more than I ever thought I would. It actually manages to coax a performance out of Dwayne Johnson that could be credible considered as… acting. No curled eyebrows, no winking at the audience, no ‘roided-up bicep flexing. He actually inhabits a character and invests him with something like dimensions.
All this is set against a backdrop of fires, explosions and machine guns, of course. The former WWE wrestler known as “The Rock” still knows his audience, who like the smell of his cooking, and insist that he keep on cooking that recipe -- or something.
(I never watched a lot of wrestling.)
Johnson plays Will Sawyer, a former military badass turned FBI badass who… got blown up in bad op, lost his leg and now has become a rather self-doubting family man. Looking a little thick in the face, with a scraggly grey beard and doe-ish eyes, Johnson manages to project a decent amount of vulnerability for a guy the size of an NFL linebacker.
“I just kinda put my sword down,” he says to his old squad mate, Ben (Pablo Schreiber), who has recruited him to do a security assessment of The Pearl -- the world’s newly christened tallest building, courtesy of an ambitious Hong Kong billionaire, Zhao Min Zhi (Chin Han). He even brings along his wife, Sarah (Neve Campbell), who’s also the military surgeon who saved his life, and their adorable, peril-prone moppets (McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell).
Of course, nefarious bad guys with vague European accents (Roland Møller chief among them) are up to no good, sealing off the building and setting the 96th floor ablaze, while also disabling the fire control systems. The flames gradually higher as our hero battles the villains in a confined space while striving to protect his loved ones.
If all this sounds like “Die Hard” shotgun married to “Blazing Inferno,” that’s because it is.
Still, it’s hard to deny this is a fun flick. And it’s nice to see a character with a disability as the hero of an action thriller. Will gets around pretty well on his prosthetic leg, and even manages to use it as a prop several times during some of the more acrobatic sequences. Writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber, who previously teamed with Johnson on “Central Intelligence,” resists the urge to have him take the leg off and start whacking bad guys with it.
Of course, you've got to swallow a lot of action movie stupidity along the way. Like a tall building being lit on fire in the middle, the flames gradually engulfing higher stories, yet somehow the superstructure remains perfectly intact without collapsing in on itself, as basic engineering principles would dictate.
It's not like there's a real-life contrary example from the recent past that literally every single person on Earth is aware of...
Speaking of which, I talked to a few people afterward who admit they were a bit triggered by the 9/11 resemblance. I was more bothered by the transgressions against Physics 101.