Film Review: In "Skyscraper", How Much Dangling In The Air Can One Man Do?
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has had a remarkable career in that he’s currently the most bankable star alive and yet he has not starred in one memorable movie. You gotta respect the affable muscleman’s boundless hustle and force of personality. And by all accounts he’s the nicest guy.
But every time I sit through one of his extremely heartless movies, I feel like I’ve been suckered into a focus group. That is, his movies don’t bother to disguise their algorithmic nature. All that’s missing is a giant neon text emblazoned on screen during every calculated moment – “APPLAUSE” or “LAUGHTER”.
Skyscraper, an action film as memorable as last Tuesday’s lunch, is the most egregious example of this. There are several shots – at least 6 -- of crowds of Chinese people (it’s set in Hong Kong) “ooohh”ing and “aaahh”ing at a giant screen in the city depicting The Rock ( sorry, sorry, former FBI Hostage Rescue Team Leader Will Sawyer) dangling precariously from a skyscraper or performing a characteristically unlikely feat of strength and agility. In between battling terrorists and saving his trapped family inside The Pearl (the titular skyscraper), several Chinese actors fill out screen time by either delivering exposition or posing. Hollywood obviously isn’t shy about courting the Chinese audience. But it’s never been more pandering and gross than in Skyscraper.
The comparisons to Die Hard are inevitable – and totally wrong. There’s a surface similarity, sure, but the great thing about Die Hard is that NY cop John McClane was a blue collar and only slightly fit balding schlub in the wrong place at the wrong time, and yet he scraped by with a cowboy wit. You believed in him despite the implausibility of it all. Skyscraper attempts to handicap the impossibly capable and superheroic Dwayne Johnson by granting his character a fake leg, which doesn’t seem to matter all that much because his disability never really comes into play, barring exactly one scene. You never believe this guy will be in any danger because he’s never scared or enraged – just determined. God forbid he convey a little vulnerability.
Too competent to be a funny trainwreck, too cynically constructed to be emotionally involving, Skyscraper is infuriatingly impossible to talk about. It’s like trying to describe the taste of steamed rice. Hey, Neve Campbell is in this too, and she classes up the proceedings somewhat. Good for her. Wait, what were we talking about?