Review: Skyscraper

If Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is playing Action Movie Bingo with his career, a Die Hard style movie is somewhere on his bingo card. Die Hard, a classic film (and yes it’s a Christmas movie), has been the template for action movies since its release in 1988.

The Rock finally has his Die Hard in Skyscraper, the story about a man trying to rescue his family from a burning building. Not just any building, it’s the tallest building and the biggest fire.

Will Sawyer (The Rock) is with his family on a trip to China to consult on the safety of the tallest building in the world built by Zhao Long Li (Chin Han). After the building is under attack, Sawyer must break into the building to save his family from the fire and the criminals responsible for setting the blaze.

Of course, there’s more happening inside the building besides felony arson. There are a few very predictable twist and turns and about two football fields worth of duct tape used.

There are plenty of Die Hard comparisons to make. The main one being, a man tries to save his wife (and kids) from terrorists in a tall building. One film comparison, that’s not in the trailer, is Skyscraper using a very similar sequence from 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. It’s not a complete rip-off…more like a Weird Al Yankokvic cover song – it’s a funnier version of something you already loved.

The most consistent thing about The Rock’s career is his ability to play himself in any role. From Rampage, to Jumanji, to any of his Fast movies, he’s been playing himself for a long time. Seriously, does anyone remember the names of his characters besides Hobbs? The best part:  It never distracts from the movie. Not one time. Nobody is buying a ticket to see a regular guy save his family and avoid certain death a dozen times. Nobody wants to see that. Would they watch The Rock save his family multiple times and use his prosthetic leg like it’s a Swiss Army knife? Absolutely. If you describe the the film as, “The Rock does [fill in the blank]”, they’ll show up every time.

The Rock isn’t alone in this 80’s throwback action flick. Neve Campbell plays his wife Sarah. It’s hard to forget her name since he screams it 1,000 times. Noah Taylor shows up and battles for the Paul Dano – Something Bad is Definitely Going to Happen Now that You Showed Up Championship Belt. A belt previously held by Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out, American Made).

99% of the film takes place in China, allowing for a lot of Chinese actors to get more exposure to American audiences. Of all the supporting actors, Hannah Quinlivan gets the best use of screen time as Xia, the badass that destroys everyone she comes in contact with. It won’t be long before audiences see her talents in another American film.

The action scenes are enjoyable for a film that features more CGI flames than a Ghost Rider movie and villains with bad aim. Any fan of martial arts films will recognize how this movie ends before the final act. The best sequence in the film is a one-on-one fight scene, not any of the intense action highlighted in the trailers.

Skyscraper accomplishes two things. 1) it tells the entire story in a little over 90 mins. It gets right to the action and ends with a bang. 2) it’s a bloated summer action movie that feels like it could’ve came out in ’88, but never feels old or tired despite recycling old tropes from three decades ago.

The Rock doesn’t save the summer with Skyscraper, but he does get to save his family and we get to have a fun time watching it.

Grade: B-