Possibly one to avoid if you’re pyrophobic and, indeed, acrophobic, “Skyscraper” sees Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s security consultant tackle a towering inferno with a plucky, die-hard attitude.
Injured when a hostage crisis ends in tragedy, FBI agent Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) loses a leg and his appetite for frontline duty. Years later, he’s an independent security consultant, living with his wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and two children in the world’s tallest skyscraper, The Pearl, in Hong Kong. But when the shady business dealings of The Pearl’s owner come back to haunt him, Will finds himself and his family caught in a devastating terrorist attack.
Having honed his family-friendly action adventure craft in “Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle” and “Rampage”, The Rock is well positioned to take the lead in a muscular high-concept action adventure like this. Unfortunately, though, the film suffers from a crisis of confidence and rather than embrace the harder, 15 or 18 courting action movie it so wants to be, it pulls many of its punches to scrape a commercial 12A and occasionally feels oddly toothless, especially when dispatching one or more of the villainous henchmen. The nerfing of some of the kills is clearly the result of judicious editing, though, so we can maybe hold out hope for a ‘harder’ cut release for home media.
And there’s a lot to enjoy in “Skyscraper” which would have worked as a harder-edged old-fashioned action movie. Johnson is as dependable as ever and his onscreen charisma carries the picture through some of its wobblier moments and, especially, the sluggish first half hour or so as the movie manoeuvres all its players into place. Neve Campbell, refreshingly, gets more to do than you might expect and it’s a pleasant surprise to see her character not pigeonholed as the damsel in distress or leverage against the hero while both kids don’t let the side down in their small but well-performed roles.
The rest of the antagonists are a decent, if indistinct and somewhat clichéd bunch, with only Noah Taylor’s oily insurance representative and Chin Han as building owner Zhao Long Ji making anything more than a passing impression. The story itself is fairly routine (and deeply derivative) but it really only exists as a loose framework from which to hang the admittedly impressive visual effects and stunt work. Thurber packs the frame with spectacle and dizzying, dazzling visuals that deserve to be seen on the biggest screen you can find with a bucket of popcorn and a soda big enough that you could probably put out the flames engulfing The Pearl singlehandedly.
Ironically for a movie about a building so very, very tall, “Skyscraper” lacks any real depth but it’s still a satisfying summer popcorn blockbuster and as preposterous as the signature high altitude antics might be, you’ll still find yourself on the edge of your seat.