It’s ‘Die Hard’ … with The Rock
By Jason Wiese
I once read an interview in Entertainment Weekly with Bruce Willis in which the actor looked back on his career pre- and post-1988’s iconic action film Die Hard. At one point in the interview, Willis recalls a time when someone pitched him an idea for a movie described as “Die Hard… in a building,” to which he replied, “Uhhh, I think we did that already.” When you hear the plot of Skyscraper, in which a man must risk life and limb to save his family who are trapped inside a building ridden with armed criminals, it sounds quite a bit like the aforementioned pitch. But when you throw in elements of The Towering Inferno and cast your good buddy Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the hero, you get something that… still feels awfully familiar, but is at least a good time.
Will Sawyer (Johnson) is a former FBI hostage rescue team leader who now runs a company specializing in security assessment. When he is hired by Zhoa Long Ji (Chin Han) to ensure the security of his state-of-the-art Hong Kong skyrise, the tallest in the world (in this film, that is), he brings his wife Sarah (Neve Campbell – Sidney Prescott from Scream), son Henry (Noah Cottrell) and daughter Georgia (McKenna Roberts) with him to stay in the building’s residential area until the job is complete. One night a nefarious group of criminals devise a plan to take Zhoa hostage by setting his building on fire until the inferno towers to his top floor penthouse. What they did not prepare for is that Sarah and the kids are in the building when they set the flames ablaze. With no way in or out, Sawyer must come to his family’s aid by figuring out how to do both.
This thriller comes from the heavily inspired mind of writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber, who past credits include 2004’s Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and 2013’s We’re the Millers. That may come as a shock, but when you discover that he also helmed the Johnson-led action comedy Central Intelligence and notice the many absurdities of Skyscraper’s plot, it all makes perfect sense. In fact, the antagonists’ motivation to take over the building is so comically over-complicated that once Zhoa is finished explaining it, Sawyer follows it with a watered-down, one-sentence summary just to make sure it does not fly completely over your head. It is as if Thurber wants the film to appear as if it is a brainy, complex thriller, but realizes that is not what his target audience is paying for. That is a strategy I cannot help but applaud.
Despite its plot holes, laughably lazy exposition and frequent rip-offs of aggressively similar films, I was pleasantly surprised by Skyscraper. The action sequences are impressively well-crafted making way for several genuinely heart-racing moments. Johnson, Campbell and their children portray an endearing family dynamic. It never ceases to entertain you and I would go so far as to call it one of the most satisfying B-movies of the summer. It especially helps if you love movies The Rock… or Bruce Willis.