Skyscraper ***

Throwback action pic that produces just enough gasp-inducing moments to keep us entertained throughout. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

In the marketing blitz prior to the release of “Skyscraper,” Dwayne Johnson released two “vintage” posters for the film, one an ode to “Die Hard” (see the comparison below) and the other paying homage to “The Towering Inferno.” The choices are appropriate, as “Skyscraper” is very much in the mode of those action classics, and to its credit is a fun watch in its own right.

This is not a movie for the faint of heart, nor the altophobic. Johnson stars as Will Sawyer, a safety and security expert hired to inspect the newest tallest building in the world, called the Pearl, in Hong Kong. The former FBI agent with a prosthetic leg takes his wife Sarah (Neve Campbell), daughter Georgia (McKenna Roberts) and son Henry (Noah Cottrell) along for the trip. Things are fine until Will is double-crossed by his ex-partner (Pablo Schreiber) and framed for setting the 220-story building on fire.

When the fire begins Will is across town, which means he needs to get back into the building above the fire line on the 96th floor to save his family, all while being pursued by police. This leads to him climbing up a 100-story crane, rotating it around, swinging its hook to break a window, and jumping from the crane into the building. It’s astonishing. It’s also a scene that is in the trailers and on the film’s main poster, and it has inspired a good deal of derision for its unlikelihood and ignorance of science. I daresay that if you’re worried about the science in an action movie about a tall building on fire starring a former professional wrestler once known as “The Rock,” you’re missing the point.

Which is, of course, to have fun with the ride writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber takes us on. For good measure, Thurber has Johnson walk outside the tower a la Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” and Thurber uses a hall of mirrors in the climax, a gimmick that so many movies (“John Wick 2,” etc.) have utilized that it’s been parodied by Key & Peele.  Overall, the action is exciting, nicely edited and highlighted by death defying leaps at very high heights. In other words, you’ve seen this kind of thing before, just not quite like this.

The dialog is clunky and often expository, and the villains are stock characters who lack motivation. “Skyscraper” does one thing that surprises, though, and it’s a better movie because of it. The role of the hero’s wife is often minimal in these types of films, but not here. Campbell’s Sarah is a surgeon who did three tours of duty in Afghanistan, so she kicks butt as well. And just when you think Sarah’s been written out half way through, you quickly learn the story isn’t done with her. Good for Thurber for writing the character this way, and for Campbell for playing it with conviction. A strong woman in an enjoyable male-dominated summer action movie is more than enough reason to give this a chance.

Did you know?
Johnson and Thurber previously collaborated on the dreadful “Central Intelligence” (2016).

Skyscraper PosterDie Hard Poster

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