I’d like to see a documentary short film about the persons(s) charged with keeping track of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s wardrobe and his wound count on the set of an action movie, lest there be a glaring continuity error.
For this scene you’re covered in sweat and soot. Your shirt is grimy and there’s a rip in your pants. You’ve been slashed in the forearm, and you’ve sustained a deep puncture wound to the chest and you’ve wrapped THAT in duct tape — but your artificial leg is intact, for now. OK, I think we’re good!
In “Skyscraper,” Johnson plays Sgt. John McClain, who has to rely on his instincts as he constantly goes crashing through glass windows and rappelling from spot to spot in the brand new Nakatomi Plaza while he takes on a trash-talking Euro villain. Meanwhile, there’s a cop down below who at first thought John was the bad guy, but has now become his ally.
Oh wait. That’s “Die Hard.” This isn’t “Die Hard.” It’s not nearly as smart or gritty or as well acted as that action classic, which was released 30 years ago this month. This is a shameless rip-off of “Die Hard,” with a little bit of “The Towering Inferno” and even the first “Rocky” peppered in for good measure.
And by the by, that wasn’t an arbitrary reference to an artificial limb. In this cheesy and predictable semi-thriller, Johnson’s Will Sawyer is an Army veteran and FBI hostage rescue team leader who lost a leg in a mission gone horribly wrong some 10 years ago.
Cut to present day. Will is now married to Sarah (Neve Campbell), the Naval surgeon who saved his life. (That must make for awkward moments when the two are asked how they met. “So I was leading a rescue team in a domestic hostage situation, and there were multiple deaths, but I survived, thanks to this little lady right here …”)
Will and Sarah and their adorable twin children Georgia (McKenna Roberts) and Henry (Noah Cottrell) are visiting Hong Kong because Will has landed a plum security job — but oh boy do things go sideways one day.
Over the course of one insanely dangerous, bloody, violent evening, Will’s artificial leg is periodically removed from his person, either during a fight or by choice, e.g., when Will uses the metal limb in the nick of time to stop heavy doors from closing.
Let’s rewind to the obligatory calm-before-the-storm moments, before all derivative chaos breaks loose.
The Sawyers are staying at The Pearl in Hong Kong, which stretches 200-plus stories into the sky and will soon be opened to residential tenants. (The lower section of The Pearl, filled with shops and amusements, is already a top tourist attraction.)
Will, who operates a small security firm out of the family garage, has been given a plum job: assessing all the security and safety features of the building. For now, the only occupants of the building are the Sawyers — and in the penthouse, the visionary tech genius Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), who modestly calls his building “The Eighth Wonder of the World.”
(As a CGI creation, The Pearl never really seems “of” Hong Kong. It feels like something painted in by computer.)
When a pack of terrorists infiltrates the building and starts a fire (which doesn’t seem like the smartest of strategies), Will is off-site — but his wife and children are trapped on a middle floor while Zhao is holed up in the penthouse.
Initiate action sequences!
I lost track of how many times Will either jumped or fell and found himself hanging on by his fingertips, and how many times various family members jumped out of the way just before a burning hunk of debris came crashing down.
Meanwhile, we learn the reason why the bad guys are so intent on carrying out their murderous mission — and it’s something right out of a late 1980s thriller. Suffice to say that even in a silly and loud escapist actioner, this is one of the laziest invocations of the MacGuffin in recent memory.
As the action in “Skyscraper” unfolds, a huge crowd gathers at the foot of The Pearl, watching every harrowing moment on a giant-screen monitor — cheering for Will, holding its collective breath when he tries another outrageous maneuver and applauding his every triumph. Wow, that’s some impressive camerawork by … I don’t know, crews in helicopters hovering nearby?
No matter. We’re not supposed to think about a movie like “Skyscraper.” This is superficial summer popcorn fare, given a PG-13 because when innocents are mowed down, the camera lingers on the smugly smiling sociopathic villains, not the carnage.
“Skyscraper” is the kind of movie you can watch on a flight, without bothering to wear headphones.
In fact, it might play better that way.
Universal Pictures presents a film written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of gun violence and action, and for brief strong language). Running time: 103 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.