The term “disaster movie” is a tad extreme for describing Skyscraper, in which our hero tries not to, uh, die hard in, um, a towering inferno.
Still, the foundational cracks in the world’s tallest building are no match for the narrative crevices in this latest slick action vehicle for erstwhile wrestler Dwayne Johnson, which provides some modest thrills while taking itself too seriously.
Most of the story takes place inside The Pearl, a massive 220-story edifice in Hong Kong that includes retail, office space, luxury apartments, and even a giant park, while boasting the most breathtaking views on the planet from a bubble on its roof. What could go wrong?
Johnson plays Will, an American security consultant hired by the billionaire developer (Chin Han) to inspect the upper half of the building for insurance purposes before it opens to residents. After he signs off, however, some of his partners reveal themselves as duplicitous members of a crime syndicate looking to settle a grudge. Henchmen steal the security codes and set the tower ablaze, framing Will in the process.
As he’s being pursued by authorities, the resilient amputee — he’s got a prosthetic leg from a prior accident — must go to great lengths to clear his name and rescue his scrappy wife (Neve Campbell) and twin kiddos trapped inside.
The film doesn’t just ask you to turn off your brain for two hours. It request you extract it from your skull, perhaps bash it against a wall, and punt it into the nearest trash receptacle.
As long as you’re willing to intellectually disengage from what you’re seeing on the screen — and provided you don’t get queasy from acrophobia — Johnson’s charismatic charm shines through, even if the film needs to acknowledge its own absurdity.
The clichéd screenplay by director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball) emphasizes spectacle over substance — masking its abandonment of logic and coherence, clumsy predictability, and forgettable villain with a nonstop parade of physical confrontations, death-defying escapes, and high-tech gadgetry within its uniquely vertical setting.
Indeed, the sleek mixed-use structure itself is the most intriguing character in the film, as long as you ignore questions about its economic feasibility or structural integrity. At least it’s pretty cool.
The same ultimately can’t be said of Skyscraper, which can’t reconcile its desire for emotional resonance with its total detachment from reality. Instead, it just crashes and burns.