Dis­as­ter film falls flat

Dad em­barks on a 9/11-es­que res­cue op­er­a­tion

The Herald (South Africa) - - Leisure - Skyscraper

(4) SKYSCRAPER Di­rected by: Raw­son Mar­shall Thurber. Star­ring: Dwayne John­son, Neve Camp­bell, Chin Han, Noah Tay­lor, Roland Møller, Han­nah Quin­li­van. Re­viewed by: Rob­bie Collin.

Go­ing on the stri­dent ad­ver­tis­ing for Skyscraper you would think Univer­sal had come up with a mod­ern-day Tow­er­ing

In­ferno. Alas, the end re­sult holds all the ap­peal of a burntout wheelie bin.

Here is a bland and per­func­tory dis­as­ter film in which Dwayne “The Rock” John­son saves his fam­ily from a ter­ror­ist group’s fire­bomb strike on the world’s newly un­veiled tallest build­ing.

The overt in­vo­ca­tion of the 2001 World Trade Cen­ter at­tacks is now par for the course in the ac­tion-ad­ven­ture strand of John­son’s ca­reer: see also 2015’s San An­dreas and this year’s Ram­page, both of which also had the wrestler-turned-movie-star em­bark on a 9/11es­que res­cue op­er­a­tion with a fan­tas­ti­cal slant (one apoc­a­lyp­tic earth­quake, one gi­ant go­rilla gone berserk).

The dif­fer­ence this time is there is vir­tu­ally noth­ing else to it: just John­son dan­gling over un­con­vinc­ing CGI precipices while peo­ple oc­ca­sion­ally shoot at him, in­ter­spersed with re­lent­lessly earnest dec­la­ra­tions of fa­therly love.

Af­ter an hour or so, the film rolls out its sig­na­ture stunt, as ex­ten­sively hawked in the trail­ers: John­son leap­ing from the prow of a con­struc­tion crane into the ninety-some­thing floor of the burn­ing build­ing it­self.

On the ground be­low, a gath­er­ing crowd cheers him on, as does at least one po­lice of­fi­cer – even though at this point in pro­ceed­ings, John­son’s char­ac­ter is sus­pected of be­ing re­spon­si­ble for the blast and his mugshot is all over the rolling news.

For a film with an in­cred­i­bly straight­for­ward premise – ef­fec­tively, man goes up­stairs – trips over it­self an aw­ful lot.

John­son’s char­ac­ter is Will Sawyer, a for­mer FBI agent who lost a leg in the line of duty, then mar­ried the mil­i­tary sur­geon (Neve Camp­bell) who patched him up.

Now a renowned se­cu­rity con­sul­tant, Will has been flown to Hong Kong with his fam­ily so he can cast his ex­pert eye over The Pearl, a twist­ing su­per-spire that dwarfs the Burj Khal­ifa, and would even top three Em­pire State Build­ings stacked lobby to mast.

The Sawyers are the Pearl’s first and, to date, only civil­ian res­i­dents. And this means they are also the only po­ten­tial ca­su­al­ties when a squad of ex­traor­di­nar­ily well-equipped bad guys set fire to the place and dis­able the sprin­kler sys­tem in the hope of con­vinc­ing the de­vel­oper (Chin Han) to part with, of all things, a sen­si­tive USB stick.

Hand­ily, the place seems to have been con­structed with a Die Hard-like stand-off in mind.

Key fea­tures in­clude a ver­tig­i­nous gar­den atrium, some treach­er­ous wind turbines with an im­por­tant con­trol panel in be­tween and a spher­i­cal pent­house full of mir­ror­like plasma screens that’s good for noth­ing but a con­fus­ing fi­nal shoot-out.

Yet, the build­ing it­self is a missed op­por­tu­nity. For one thing, it looks noth­ing like an ex­ist­ing piece of ar­chi­tec­ture and every­thing like a sound stage with green-screen trim­mings: there are scenes here that make you doubt the ac­tors are in the same room to­gether, let alone that the room is half a kilo­me­tre up and also con­tains an ex­plod­ing he­li­copter.

For an­other, it’s a to­tal bore de­sign-wise: the only mem­o­rable fix­tures are a se­ries of net­worked ges­tu­ral con­trol pan­els and smart­watches.

Ad­di­tion­ally [How­ever], its re­la­tion­ship with the laws of physics doesn’t ap­pear to be a bind­ing one. Dur­ing the col­lapse of the atrium, John­son’s char­ac­ter some­how man­ages to hold up a crum­bling bridge while stand­ing on it.

The writer and direc­tor is Raw­son Mar­shall Thurber, known for his Ben Stiller-led sports satire Dodge­ball, and pair­ing John­son with Kevin Hart in the buddy com­edy Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence.

As such, you would be for­given for ex­pect­ing a sim­i­larly light-hearted ap­proach here, but for the most part the film doesn’t even try to be funny.

The wel­come ex­cep­tions are some cre­ative us­age of Will’s pros­thetic leg and a run­ning joke about duct tape, although even that oc­ca­sion­ally feels down­played.

Could it be that Thurber orig­i­nally wrote Skyscraper as a com­edy un­til it was de­cided the project would be bet­ter played straight? Ei­ther way, it’s a bun­ga­low with delu­sions. –

HANG­ING ON: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ John­son has to save the day, again, in the dis­as­ter ac­tion movie ‘Skyscraper’

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