Dewayne Johnson Rocks Classic Disaster-Flick Mojo
Starring Dwayne Johnson & Neve Campbell
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber
After leaving the wrestling ring for the silver screen more than a decade ago, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has confronted a battalion of beasties, bad guys and boogiemen on his way to becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest, most dependable box-office draws.
In his latest action-thriller, he channels the mojo of classic 1970s and ’80s big-screen disaster-epic, danger dramas, fighting to rescue his wife and kids from inside the world’s tallest hotel that’s been set on fire by terrorists.
In Skyscraper, Johnson plays Will Sawyer, a former U.S. Marine and FBI hostage negotiator now working as a security consultant—the movie’s opening sequence shows us the tragedy, 10 years ago, that cost him half of a leg and made him vow to “lay down his sword.” Sawyer has just landed a plum assignment, overseeing all the security and safety systems for the Pearl, a new, high-tech, 240-story Hong Kong skyscraper that’s three times taller than the Empire State Building.
A news reporter breathlessly aligns the Pearl and its billionaire builder, Zhao Long (Chin Han), to humankind’s ancient “quest to reach the sky” and the construction of the biblical Tower of Babel. Hmmm—and that story didn’t turn out so well, did it?
Naturally, there’s a villain—a nest of them. Of course: They want something, and they’re willing to kill to get it. Of course: Sawyer’s wife (Neve Campbell, whose role becomes much more than just a spousal second banana) and two young kids are caught in the middle of it all. And, yes: Sawyer’s on the outside of the skyscraper, his family is inside, and everything’s on fire.
And Sawyer’s been framed for starting it!
Then things really get cooking.
“A 6.5-billion-dollar chimney,” proudly proclaims one of the terrorists as he disables the Pearl’s fire-safety systems, allowing the roaring blaze to spread throughout the tower.
All of this is just so much smoke, sizzle and setup, however, for what audiences really came to see: The Rock springing into action, flinging his wall of movie muscle against an obstacle as formidable as the tallest structure on the planet. Just to make things interesting—don’t forget—he’s only got one “good” leg.
And he’s on the wanted list of the entire Chinese police force, especially a couple of top cops (Bryon Mann and Elfina Luk) who are suspicious about why anyone would want to try to break in to a burning building.
But don’t ever bet against the Rock. And don’t overthink things or you’ll get caught up in the impossible physics of how a guy with a prosthetic leg can climb up the outside of a giant construction crane, smash a hole in the hotel—then leap into the air, pulling himself into the building by his fingertips…of one hand!
And I knew duct tape was pretty amazing stuff—but I never knew that, turned inside-out, it could help me cling to the outside of a building. (Not that I’ll be trying it, though!)
Can Sawyer rescue his family, clear himself, turn the tables on the terrorists, especially their coldly vicious leader (Danish actor Roland M⦰ller, who also played bad-guy roles in The Commuter and Atomic Blonde)—and figure out why everyone is so nuts about a little bitty computer drive?
Neither a sequel nor a superhero saga—two of the most common big-screen options these days—this is the kind of gonzo, go-for-it standalone action movie that Hollywood typically doesn’t make anymore. Decades ago, it might have been a Bruce Willis movie, an Arnold Schwarzenegger romper-stomper or a Jean-Claude Van Damme flick. Skyscraper tips its tall, towering hat to those macho-movie icons of yesteryear, and to classic disaster-danger epics like The Towering Inferno, Die Hard and Cliffhanger.
It’s a sky-high stack of cheese, sure, but it’s pretty good cheese, especially for a lite summer snack. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber—whose resume includes Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and We’re The Millers, plus working with Johnson in the comedy Central Intelligence—keeps things moving briskly enough that there’s not really much time to dwell on the preposterous plot and sometimes stilted dialogue that pad the spaces between the Rock doing what everyone really comes to see the Rock do.
“This is stupid,” says Sawyer nervously as he heads out a smashed window of the Pearl, into the night and the wind, thousands of feet above the streets of Hong Kong, on one wild part of his crazy, life-risking mission. What sane person would, under any circumstance, ever do a thing like that? Sawyer knows it’s stupid. We know it’s stupid.
And the Rock knows it’s stupid—and exactly what we want to see, what we came to see, what has made him Hollywood’s $3.3 billion man.
So go on out that window, DJ, leap from that crane, dangle from that ledge with your fingertips—and Rock on!
In theaters July 13, 2018