Film review: ‘SKYSCRAPER’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

It will be obvious to anyone who has seen the trailer that Skyscraper is really just a remake of the 1988 Bruce Willis film Die Hard as once again an intrepid, resourceful and apparently indestructible hero battles evil terrorists in a towering building.

The hero in this case is security assessor and former FBI agent Will Sawyer (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) who has just given the all-clear for completion of the world’s tallest building, the Pearl Tower in Hong Kong. While staying at the tower with his wife (Neve Campbell) and children he finds himself in a battle for survival against sadistic mercenaries who want something extremely valuable from the building’s owner Zhao Min Zhi (Chin Han) are prepared to destroy the building and its inhabitants to obtain it. Like John MacLaine in Die Hard, Sawyer relies upon both muscle and wits to take on the highly armed but of course astonishingly stupid mercenaries.

What starts as a reasonably credible and interestingly high-tech action drama becomes increasingly preposterous as ‘The Rock’ survives beatings that would kill an elephant and explosions that would level a city. He also provides plenty of ridiculous muscle-man feats of strength what would be worthy of Superman.

Despite mimicking Die Hard’s plot, Skyscraper unfortunately lacks the sense of fun and excitement that made Die Hard so iconic. This is largely because Skyscraper relies too heavily on CGI meaning that too often we’re aware that the fire engulfing the building is fake or that ‘The Rock’ is simply dangling in front of a green screen and not from the edge of a building. Also, for a film that’s really just about a guy knocking off baddies, the plot is made unnecessarily complicated by elaborate descriptions of the building’s fire security systems.

Astonishingly, Skyscraper has been lensed by There Will Be Blood cinematographer Robert Elswit. In some scenes the cinematographer’s pedigree is apparent but other scenes are confusingly shot with too many close-ups and messy action. Admittedly, the latter is largely due to choppy editing.

The film also lacks perhaps the most vital ingredient – a memorable villain. Roland Møller as a snarling South African mercenary is convincingly nasty but doesn’t come close to Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber from Die Hard. As the hero, though, ‘The Rock’ is typically likeable with his mix of grinning swagger and self-deprecation and he certainly adds more layers to the body-building action hero than Arnie did.

Skyscraper is a tolerable piece of low-brow cinema but we already know that this film can and has been done much better.

Nick’s rating: **1/2

Genre: Action/ drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Rawson Marshall Thurber.

Release date: 12th July 2018.

Running time: 102 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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