Preposterous on an epic scale, “Skyscraper” is “Towering Inferno” meets “Die Hard” — “Hard Inferno” — starring man mountain Dwayne Johnson as King Kong.
Universal and writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber have The Rock clambering up the world’s tallest building — or at least the construction crane used to construct it. They hurl fire and bullets, aircraft (helicopters, not biplanes) at him, and at one point literally have him holding the structure together with his muscle-bound arms.
The King Kong references are as intentional as they are unfortunate.
Don’t expect much from the acting. Toss the laws of physics out of court, sign away your rights to a logical plot when you buy your ticket and remember, it’s not in 3D, so there’s no chance of injury from repeated eye-rolls.
But is all this poppycock fun? Every so often, sure. The odds are about the same as 7,000 King Kongs with typewriters eventually tapping out “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Johnson plays Will Sawyer, an FBI hostage retrieval commando when we meet him, a compassionate guy badly injured when a hostage sets off a bomb. But that’s how he met his wife. Sarah (Neve Campbell) is a Navy surgeon who saved his life.
Years later, he’s in Hong Kong, a one-legged security and safety consultant signing off on ascendant China’s new claim to The World’s Tallest Building, the 220 story monstrosity called The Pearl, after the video-projecting orb that tops it.
But just as its about to open, bad guys hack in, break in and seize the top floors — where the mogul who built it (Chin Han) has his penthouse, where Will’s Sarah and their two kids are vacationing.
Will’s derring do is what follows, fantastical stunts that seem straight out of a video game quest — level after level achieved, bodies piling up along the way. On one good leg, and one made of titanium. Just guessing there.
A simple flaw far too many action screenplays make is building “super competence” into the hero. Will is an ex-FBI commando, and an ex-Marine. He’d have been an ex-SEAL too but even writer-director Thurber (“Dodgeball,” “We’re the Millers,” “Central Intelligence”) knew that was a “He’s trained to be superhuman” over-reach.
Thurber cast a good bad guy (Roland Møller), and gave him one great line — “Light a man’s house on fire and you find out what he truly loves.” Thurber found a few stunning, over-the-top obstacles for Will to overcome.
But for a guy with all these comedy credits, Thurber (and his by-the-numbers star) fail to give the spark of sarcastic life to this version of John “Die Hard” McClane. The script gives Will one half-funny aside, and a single funny line.
“If you can’t fix it with duct tape, then you ain’t using enough duct tape.”
Tape isn’t what this screenplay, brisk as it is, required. Either take it completely over the top (Meet the REAL “Mr. Incredible”) or put more effort at parking it in reality. It dangles between the two, stopping the picture cold more than once.
If they’d put as much effort as The Studio that Brought Us “The Great Wall” puts into kissing up to China (again), with noble Chinese billionaires, stoic Chinese cops and generic Euro-Afrikaans/Australian villains, this might justify the stupid amounts of money it’s sure to make.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of gun violence and action, and for brief strong language
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Noah Taylor, Pablo Schreiber , Chin Han, Roland Møller
Credits:Written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. A Universal release.
Running time: 1:42