by Thomas Harris
Comedian Nathan Fielder, whilst helping to improve the business of a struggling coffee shop on his fantastic show, Nathan For You; used satire laws to rebrand the café as “Dumb Starbucks.” It looked like Starbucks, it tasted like Starbucks, but dumb. Skyscraper is dumb Die Hard. It looks like Die Hard, it sounds like Die Hard, but dumb.
Yes, latter day Die Hard films too are dumb Die Hard films. But Skyscraper manages to tread the uncanny valley of dumb Die Hard with such unbridled glee, it begs the question as to whether this script was in itself a future dumb Die Hard film.
Dwayne Johnson is Will Sawyer, an ex-military man who following a botched attempt at saving a child lost his leg but met his wife Sarah (Neve Campbell). Years later, he finds himself under the employment of Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han) toe ensure the safety of “The Pearl,” the tallest building in the world. His mettle is put to the test when terrorists set fire to the building with his family still inside. Like John McClane, he must traverse the building, save his family and bring the terrorists to justice.
To its credit, the film takes very little time to get to the grit of the story. Ten minutes of exposition set up 100 minutes of, albeit lame, action. Story isn’t necessary when you have Johnson climbing cranes, jumping across ravines and punching terrorists in the neck. Those ten minutes however, so chock full of exposition, attempts a twist that fails to shock and reinforces rather misjudged stereotypes.
Director Rawson Marshall Thurber began his career making broad comedies like Dodgeball and his inexperience in shooting large action sequences show. A fight early on has the wild cutting of Taken 3 and a final set piece is garish in its vapid use of CGI. Thurber also takes the film far too seriously. It’s all so humourless, with the rare one-liner doing little to cut through how truly drab the whole affair is.
Johnson himself, still playing the least likely everyman, is still an enjoyable presence. The film also treats his disability like a power; using his leg as a weapon, a door stop and momentary reminders that he isn’t indestructible (he absolutely is).
It’s also pleasant to see Neve Campbell back in the blockbuster sphere. In a role traditionally fairly unforgiving, she gets to flex her action muscles whilst still playing mother. Johnson may recycle plots and his films follow the sort of formula a child would think up when playing with a toy box, but he’s always cast love interests of the same age. Strange to think of that as remarkable.
There are no risks, twists are predictable, action is often ugly and lamely put together and it all feels too often like a 100-minute tourism advert for Hong Kong. At least Rampage was strangely all over the place. Nothing about Skyscraper feels remarkable. Dumb Die Hard at least implies it’s mildly fun, it’s not.
Skyscraper is out 13th July