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edge staff writer


Between The Rock and a ‘Die Hard’ place – ‘Skyscraper’

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There’s something comforting about known quantities when it comes to the cinema. Going to the movies with a confident understanding of precisely the experience you’re going to have can be kind of nice.

So it is with summer CGI-explosion fest “Skyscraper,” a simplistically-titled vehicle for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (who by The Maine Edge fiat will continue to be called The Rock and there’s nothing any of you can do to stop me) that is formulaic and predictable and jam-packed with action clichés both general and Rock-specific.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s not a good movie, mind you, but if your expectations are tempered by the knowledge of both the film’s star and its title, you will almost certainly have a good time.

The Rock stars as Will Sawyer, a former FBI rescue guy who left the agency following a hostage situation gone wrong that resulted in the loss of his leg. He started a family with his wife Sarah (Neve Campbell, TV’s “House of Cards”), the doctor who saved his life following the aforementioned situation; they have two suitably adorable kids in Georgia (McKenna Roberts, TV’s “The Young and the Restless”) and Henry (Noah Cottrell in his feature debut).

Will’s fledgling security company has scored a big opportunity courtesy of his former FBI colleague Ben (Pablo Schreiber, “Den of Thieves”). An Asian tech billionaire named Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han, “Ghost in the Shell”) has built the largest building in the world, a 3,500-foot-tall technological wonder known as “the Pearl.” As part of an effort to insure the structure, Will has been called in to do a security assessment.

However, there are sinister forces at work behind the scenes. An enigmatic gangster (Roland Moller, “The Commuter”) and his elite compatriots are on a quest to take down the Pearl; their motivations are initially unclear, but their ruthlessness is unquestioned. And when the gang gains control of the building with Zhao (and the Sawyer family) still inside, it’s up to Will to find a way in so that he can defeat the bad guys and save his family before all is lost.

There’s a surprising amount of engaging stupidity that needs to be unpacked here. You can call “Skyscraper” a rip-off of “Die Hard” and I won’t argue with you, but consider this possibility: it’s even simpler than that.

It’s The Rock versus a building.

Clearly, Hollywood is running out of things for The Rock to fight. Not only did they decide that he was going to fight a skyscraper, but it was going to be the biggest, techiest skyscraper that has ever been. And not only that, but they took away one of his legs because that was the only way to make it fair.

(At this point, we’re going to note that one of 2018’s most delightful cinematic sequences occurs early in this movie when The Rock winds up getting into a fight after losing his prosthetic leg. Think about it: he’s literally a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. It’s a colloquialism brought to life and I am 100 percent here for it.)

Look, there’s a lot about this movie that doesn’t make a ton of sense. There’s even more than the usual degree of disregard for the laws of physics. Choices are made that are nonsensical, stupid or both. Supposed “twists” are telegraphed and laughably unsurprising. In a lot of spots, the CGI looks cut-rate and cornball – terms that aptly describe much of the dialogue as well.

However, writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber has previous experience with The Rock – he wrote and directed 2016’s “Central Intelligence,” the reasonably entertaining action comedy that teamed The Rock with Kevin Hart – so he knows exactly how much (that is, how little) he actually has to do to make a watchable movie when you’ve got a Rock-solid foundation.

The Rock’s standard charisma is front and center; “Skyscraper” isn’t all that great, but it mostly works, thanks almost entirely to what The Rock is cooking. He is pure movie star, which is why this is such a good time despite not being a good film. He’s such a human cartoon that you somehow buy it despite how nonsensical it all seems. We could talk about the rest of the cast, but let’s be honest – they don’t matter. They are little more than motivating plot devices or low-end obstacles, all of them secondary to our main conflict between The Rock and the hard place.

In a lot of ways, “Skyscraper” epitomizes the modern Hollywood summer blockbuster. It is huge and dumb and winkingly semi-serious, driven by an eminently watchable star doing ridiculous things for ridiculous reasons.

Forget “Die Hard” – this movie is Rock Hard.

[3 out of 5]


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