I can’t say that I ever really paid much attention to Dwayne Johnson’s acting career over the years. I just always assumed that his kind of mindless action movies were the kind of stuff I wanted to spend my time watching. I’ve never even seen a Fast and Furious movie. Over the years I’ve heard people tell me that aren’t all bad but I still just can’t be arsed. There’s so many these days. It’s exhausting. However, I can’t deny that there is something about him as an actor that I enjoy. He’s done some pretty funny things and I’ve started to see him in a different light. It’s like when I suddenly realised that Channing Tatum was a very clever performer. In both cases I realised that I’d been negatively judging them both based on my own small insight. So, I’ve decided to give Dwayne the benefit of the doubt and not be so quick to dismiss his films. That said, Skyscraper always seemed one step too far. No matter how often my co-worker tried to convince me that it was super original because he had a prosthetic leg.
Let’s be honest, Skyscraper is just something that happened when half of the Die Hard script was glued to half of The Towering Inferno script. It’s one of those films where the narrative doesn’t need to make sense. The only thing that’s important is causing the most destruction as possible. But we might as well go over it anyway. Dwayne Johnson plays Will Sawyer, a retired FBI agent who now assesses security for skyscrapers. He is asked to visit Hong Kong to give his professional opinion on the recently built largest structure in the world: the Pearl. Turns out he is just a pawn in a much bigger game. Turns out there is a plot to steal something important that the building’s owner, Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), is hiding in his vault. Unfortunately, Will’s family are trapped inside the Pearl after terrorists take over the building and set fire to the top floors. Meaning Will must fight his way inside to rescue his wife and kids.
There is, of course, one thing that I’ve forgotten to mention about this film’s plot. Thanks to an accident years earlier, Will has a prosthetic leg. It’s a weird and slightly unnecessary plot device that only really comes into play when the action needs a bit of a boost. It’s probably the only interesting thing about the film and, despite myself, I did find myself wanting to know more about the logistics of the fight sequences. Was Johnson hopping for his parts or was it all just a stunt double? I need to know these things. Still, I can’t help but think that it was a gimmick too far and I could definitely have done without it. It was clearly a bit of an annoyance to the filmmaking process as it’s basically ignored for the entire time.
As for the rest of the film, there’s not much I can really say. It wasn’t original in the slightest and didn’t really excite me in any way. As the plot moves on it just becomes more and more absurd and it gets difficult to really stick with it. Then you find out the reason that the building has been taken over and it’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s all so over-the-top and unnecessary. I realise that with any film of this genre you need to suspend your disbelief to some extent but this really does push you further than you can take. It’s so derivative that it just becomes distracting and frustrating. Maybe if you were doing action movie bingo then you’d find some enjoyment in the plot but otherwise it’s just nothing.
In a lot of these types of films, it comes down to the main actor to carry the film on their personality. Normally Dwayne Johnson is able to do this really well but this role just doesn’t give him anything to work with. Will is basically just a man with a difficult past and only one leg. His character development is moving from being a man who hasn’t touched a gun in 10 years to becoming a man who will gun down anyone he can find. And as nice as it is to see Neve Campbell playing his wife Sarah, she barely gets anything to do other than blindly follow her husbands instructions and play the damsel in distress. I mean she gets one or two cursory fight scenes (the character was a naval doctor after all) but it’s all so insipid it doesn’t really count.
The real problem that I have with Skyscraper, however, is that despite all of these problems, I didn’t hate it as much as I should have. There is something weirdly entertaining or, at the very least, captivating about it. Something that keeps you going despite how ridiculous and stupid the plot is. Despite how awful the characters are. There are better over-the-top action films out there but there are also worse ones. This one tries to be something better. The fact that it doesn’t manage to achieve it in any way whatsoever is a shame but I can’t say I regret watching it as much as I expected to. I’m not exactly sure I enjoyed Skyscraper but I didn’t exactly hate it.