A man on the run from the body of governance he used to serve is not a story told with much variety. Forced into retirement and heading out for one last trip to save those who the protagonist loves, it is all the same to the action genre. What little variety there is comes from the characters at the heart of it, and the actor’s ability to create something worth witnessing. While the dependability of the action flick and the reliance on the Die Hard structure is hard to ignore, Skyscraper provides another action vehicle for Dwayne Johnson. As if he needed more of those. What little can be offered here is in the form of repetition. Boring, tired repetition that relies on the hallmarks of a genre that dipped out of the “underdog hero takes on villains”, but director Rawson Marshall Thurber is channelling the true underdog energy found in his earlier efforts with Dodgeball.
Skyscraper aims, quite literally, for the sky. Its story details Zhao Long Ji (Ng Chin Han), an Icarus-type figure who aims to fly as close as he can to the heavens. His skyscraper is an abomination, looking out of place in the cityscapes of Hong Kong. His twisted, alien sculpture stands tall, and the glossy cinematography gives it a necessary presence. A titular threat is presented, and the inevitable cacophony of disaster that will ensue is detailed nicely, with obvious foreshadowing aided along well by Johnson’s strong performance. Sleek, glossy sandboxes to be destroyed and shot up, Johnson is the perfect man for this mission of madness, which explodes onto the screen with defiance and, crucially, a strong entertainment value. It could be much, much better though, and as enjoyable Johnson is, it comes from his personality as a star rather than his role as the very forgettable Will Sawyer.
With a red herring that offers director Thurber the chance to experiment with CGI and set pieces, it is a shame to see that Skyscraper does not have much to offer. Editing wise, Skyscraper is a disaster. Unable to focus on one strand of this flimsy, failing story, Thurber presents erratic visions which lead to nowhere. When action should take place, there is a cut to someplace else. If tension arises, it is cut off entirely by a switch away from the interest. Messy narratives are at the core of why Skyscraper is so hard to like. Enemies that have no real reason to follow through with their intentions, whatever they may be. It is never quite clear. A story that feels unassembled, Skyscraper hopes audiences can fill in the blanks so it can focus more on its brooding, boring leading man.
An action flick that will entertain those wishing Hollywood’s finest would ditch the glitz and glam spectacle and get their hands dirty. Skyscraper employs the tactics and underlying themes one would expect of the modern action narrative, but its reliance and respect for those that inspired it is a comfort. It makes for an amicable watch, with plenty of action and smouldering one-liners that pave the rise and rise of a commendable action star. With those moments sporadic and often cut short, Thurber and his cast are no stranger to the bleaker moments that infect the latter half of the film, with this burning ring of fire becoming an annoying, passive background for characters who, for lack of a better, more descriptive word, are husks of what they should be.