dir-scr Rawson Marshall Thurber
prd Beau Flynn, Hiram Garcia, Dwayne Johnson, Mary Parent
with Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Moller, Noah Taylor, Pablo Schreiber, McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell, Byron Mann, Tzi Ma, Hannah Quinlivan, Kevin Rankin
release US/UK 13.Jul.18
18/US Universal 1h42

The sky is falling: Campbell and Johnson

taylor rolamoll schreiber
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Skyscraper Writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber makes several mistakes with this overblown action thriller, but the only fatal error is to forget a sense of humour. The plot is deeply preposterous, and yet every scene plays with neither a twinkle in the eye nor a tongue in cheek. This essentially strips Dwayne Johnson of the best weapons in his arsenal, leaving nothing to balance his muscle-man heroics.

In Hong Kong, the 240-story Pearl is now the world's tallest building, and security consultant Will (Johnson) has one last check to make. Then a gang begins torching the tower for some reason, and Will realises that his wife Sarah (Campbell) and their twins (Roberts and Cottrell) returned early from seeing the pandas. Their room is just above the fires, so Will kicks into action, leaping from a convenient 100-story crane into the tower, where he can take on the chief baddie (Moller) and save both his family and the building's creator (Chin).

The lazy script piles on a blinding array of cliches, from the opening scene, in which Will loses a leg when a grenade goes off in his face (huh?) to the fact that one of his children has asthma. Meanwhile, the villains go to insane lengths to accomplish their mission, appearing miraculously in a wall on an upper floor, then launching mass chaos to get their hands on a memory stick. As this escalates, Will performs a series of outrageously vertiginous stunts, often with the help of duct tape.

If Johnson had been allowed to wink at the camera, this might have been good fun. There's some lightness in his character, of course, and these are the best moments in the film. But once he gets down to business, he's no-nonsense. And the script simply isn't good enough for that. The only other character who registers is Sarah, and Campbell plays her with memorable spark. Everyone else is a background blur, including Moller's Euro-nutcase.

Thurber can create sharp comedy (see We're the Millers and Central Intelligence), so it's inexplicable that this script is so profoundly witless. Perhaps he was going for a vintage action/disaster vibe. But the plot simply can't hold water, and the action sequences are both fantastically silly and so digitally tweaked that there's never a whiff of suspense. That said, the premise holds interest: we'd like to know more about this crazy building and the people in it. And even with his charm obliterated, Johnson still engages the audience.

cert 12 themes, violence 10.Jul.18

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall