Dwayne Johnson is a former FBI agent now working as a private security expert that is hired to inspect the nearly completed world’s largest skyscraper in Hong Kong. When terrorists take control of the building and set it on fire, Johnson must break into to save his wife (Neve Campbell) and their two children.
I had low expectations for Skyscraper, and often that is a great mindset to have going into a film, as it can lead to pleasant surprises. Sadly, that was not the case here. Skyscraper is a very dumb movie. Adequately describing all of the reasons this is a dumb movie would require a continuous running commentary of the film.
I should note that I always route for Dwayne Johnson. I like him as a movie star. He has the right blend of charisma, action-movie-prowess, good looks, comedic timing and acting chops to make most of his films at the very least watchable, if not enjoyable. Even his stinkers have at least some redeeming qualities to them (looking at you San Andreas and Baywatch). But even those traits can not overcome the glaring flaws in this film. To start, the peril that the characters get into (and subsequently get out of) is so absurdly over the top that it requires an unattainable amount of suspension of disbelief. As a result, there is little to no tension in the action scenes, and given the incredible abundance of them, that is a big problem.
The writing is the second biggest problem in the film. The dialogue is mediocre at best, peppered with cliched and generic exchanges between the characters. As many of Johnson’s scenes are alone, he speaks to himself to provide exposition, which is a sign of incredibly lazy writing. While the overall plot is simple enough (Johnson has to free his family from a burning skyscraper), the reveal of the motivation for the attack on the building is so convoluted and nonsensical that it feels like it was an afterthought that was over worked to provide credibility. There are also a few double crosses in the movie that can be spotted the second we see the characters on screen for the first time.
Perhaps the most surprising element of the writing was that the screenplay was penned by the director, Rawson Marshall Thurber, whose writing/directing credits include Dodgeball, We’re the Millers and Central Intelligence. Thurber has a solid background in comedy writing, and yet there is not a lick of comedy to be found in Skyscraper. One can argue that because this is a completely different genre, it’s like comparing apples and oranges, but that’s just not true. First of all, good writing is good writing, regardless if genre. Second, some of the best action movies, like Die Hard and True Lies, have at least some elements of humor to them. It helps balance out any absurdness to the plot or action. But Skyscraper is void of any levity whatsoever. There is a running “joke” about duct tape that is both bland and unoriginal.
All of that said, the dumbest part of the film may very well be the climax of the film. We are treated to an overdrawn shoot-em up scene involving state of the art screens that mimic fun house mirrors that offers no shred of believability whatsoever. The film’s stupidity grows exponentially as it progresses, and by the time we come to this sequence, any chance of redemption is long gone.
Skyscraper could have been a nice call back to the action films of the late 80’s and early 90’s, which I think was the intent, but instead it’s a dumb, over the top action film devoid of any personality or credibility.