Skyscraper ponders what Die Hard would look like with zero personality
If someone were to ask you who the biggest movie star of the modern era is, you'd probably chime in with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), the former WWE wrestler who rocketed into superstardom on the strengths of his personality alone. Why such a charismatic and bankable performer would be wasted on something as unoriginal and hackneyed as Skyscraper, Johnson's latest foray into blockbuster filmmaking, is beyond understanding.
Skyscraper follows Johnson's Will Sawyer, a former FBI agent turned security expert tasked with assessing the safety of the world's highest skyscraper, the Pearl. Things go sour for Sawyer when terrorists attack the building, intent on robbing the tower's billionaire creator Zhao Long Li (Chin Han, The Dark Knight). Forced to spring into action, the film follows Sawyer as he takes on increasingly dangerous obstacles to save his family trapped inside.
If that sounds like like a mashup/remake of Die Hard and The Towering Inferno, that's because it is. The difference is that this film lacks any semblance of a personality, churning out the same sort of plot points and set pieces that you've seen time and time again in the action genre and having little to no fun doing it. The film is basically a very expensive recreation of the corny straight-to-DVD macho movies that once graced the walls of your local Blockbuster, except those films at least knew they were bad.
There are some elements that aren't entirely derivative, namely the focus on the fact that Johnson's character has a prosthetic leg, a disability caused by an FBI operation gone wrong that ended his career but allowed him to meet his wife Sarah (Neve Campbell, Scream), the Army surgeon who saved his life. The leg allows for a twist on the CGI-heavy stunts, and Campbell's performance is refreshingly more fleshed out than most action movie love interests. But Johnson himself is given very little to do outside of huff and puff his way through the chaos, delivering boring line after boring line and accessing none of his charm in the process. Not to mention that his performance again brings up Hollywood's issue with casting non-disabled actors in high-profile roles featuring disabilities.
Perhaps most egregious are the film's villains, led by hitman Kores Botha (Roland Møller, Atomic Blonde), who provide no entertainment value whatsoever. Botha is an eye-roll inducing Scandinavian stereotype who has shockingly little screen time and an idiotic plan (let's set a building on fire to get a flash drive!), while the more interesting members of his team, including a sinister assassin (Hannah Quinlan), aren't even located in the tower. Instead they are relegated for bad side plot duty taking on Sawyer's quickly saved wife and a team of predictably dumb cops. You know the drill.
Ultimately, Skyscraper isn't completely terrible, but it is completely unoriginal. It's mildly entertaining at times, but there's nothing remotely interesting or fresh about Johnson's latest attempt to enter action movie legend. At the end of the day, not only is this rip-off no Die Hard, it's an exercise in the futility of attempting to recapture movie magic that's already been drained away.