There are few surprises in “Skyscraper,” an entertaining if middlebrow thriller.
Take two cups of “The Towering Inferno,” half a pound of “Die Hard” (not necessarily a bad thing, mind you) and stir in every Dwayne Johnson action movie ever made, until the consistency of cornmeal. Place on the middle rack of a 3,000-foot Hong Kong high-rise that’s on fire, courtesy of a bad guy with an indeterminate foreign accent and sprinkle generously with cliches. Bake until just underdone.
Voilá: a movie that will satisfy your deepest craving for eye candy without a shred of nourishment. “Skyscraper” is dumb summer fun.
From the moment we meet the nice guy who almost immediately reveals himself to be bad, to the moment gun-toting villains introduce themselves by saying, with transparent falsehood, “It’s OK, we’re the good guys, you’re safe,” “Skyscraper” is exactly what we all know it to be: a silly, forgettable yet moderately watchable showcase for derring-do and special effects.
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Chief among those effects is Johnson himself, whose charisma burns like a force of nature. As Will Sawyer, a married father of two who loses a leg in the violent prologue that opens the film, and who must rescue his family from the world’s tallest building after arsonists set it on fire, Johnson keeps the film from flagging, even at its most predictable.
The aptly named Will, an FBI hostage rescue team leader turned building security consultant, wears a fake leg throughout the film, making his tenacity more impressive. The prosthesis both bedevils him and, later, comes in unexpectedly handy during one of many hair-raising, if familiar, set pieces.
Of course, when thugs break into the command center that controls the building’s fire-suppression systems, easily overriding the computer safeguards, the main hacker (Matt O’Leary) will announce, “I’m in.” And of course there will be a scene where Will, grimacing, will pull out a piece of jagged metal that has become embedded in his flesh. Bonus points to writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber for at least giving Johnson this funny line, delivered as Will binds up his injuries: “If you can’t fix it with duct tape, then you ain’t using enough duct tape.”
Despite its flaws, “Skyscraper” avoids the worst offenses of some of Johnson’s most preposterous roles. (I’m looking at you, “San Andreas.”) The film’s central stunt, in which Will attempts to jump from the arm of a wobbly tower crane to the interior of the burning building, is at once stomach-churning and viscerally satisfying.
Nor is “Skyscraper” totally devoid of wonder. The climax contains a notably satisfying, if small, twist. But the biggest element of the unforeseen? “Skyscraper” — the movie, that is, not the building — never goes up in smoke.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of gun violence, action and brief strong language.