Audiences have come a long way since the first Die Hard film.
At one point we were happy with a group of terrorists taking over a skyscraper in a high-stakes robbery while a hero cop battled against the odds to stop them, while barefoot.
But it seems Hollywood has decided the ante not only needs to be upped, it needs to be blasted into orbit. Now, the terrorists need to invade the tallest building in the whole world, set half of it on fire, take over all of its hi-tech security measures and trap the hero’s family inside. The hero, for his part, has to stop the terrorists, even though he only has one leg.
That, in a nutshell, is the pitch for Skyscraper, the latest action vehicle starring Dwayne Johnson, who is probably the closest approximation movie goers have to a Stallone or a Schwarzenegger these days.
He’s a big, muscular bruiser, equally able to deliver a snappy one-liner as a bone-crunching sock to the jaw, but his massive frame allows him to be untroubled by the chop-sockey toolkit action stars like Jason Statham or Jet Li need to keep in their arsenal.
Johnson plays Will Sawyer, an ex-FBI agent turned security consultant who is drafted in to assess the safety measures in place in the biggest skyscraper in the world, The Pearl. After a brief preamble in which Sawyer’s family (Neve Campbell, Noah Cottrell and McKenna Roberts) are established as his reason for living and woe betide the world should ill befall them, Will finds himself betrayed, attacked and subsequently framed for a terrorist attack on his place of work.
Turns out that a group of muscular gunmen have a bone to pick with The Pearl’s designer, tech entrepreneur Zhao Min Zhi (Chin Han). To that end, they hack the The Pearl’s safety measures and start a fire midway up the building, blocking any entry beyond the 95th floor. They then head to the penthouse to smoke Zhi out.
Unfortunately for the criminals, they ignored the fact that Sawyer’s family is trapped in the building and they didn’t know he’s prepared to level the earth to save them. Hilarity ensues.
Skyscraper isn’t subtle in its execution and its plot could’ve been constructed through paint-by-numbers. There’s the opening in which Sawyer’s character-building trauma is established, a couple of throwaway lines in opening scenes you just know will be referenced later, a sneering businessman who inevitably turns out to be a traitor and foreign antagonists with shady agendas.
Hell, there’s even a particularly smug villain who, audiences will be delighted to know, receives a well-deserved kick in the face.
In spite of the fact Skyscraper telegraphs pretty much all of its punches, there’s still something delightfully appealing about this film. After all, if you’re going to make something ridiculous, pull out all the stops and the fact that Sawyer executes a 500m jump from a crane to the 97th floor while hobbling on a prosthetic leg shows the filmmakers’ level of commitment.
Yes, Skyscraper is a thunderingly dumb slab of action cheese. It’s also one of the more entertaining blockbusters audiences will see this year.