Skyscraper (Universal Pictures , PG-13)

M y taste in movies tends to be on the highbrow side, but I’m also a fan of the Fast and Furious franchise. I mention this because a useful test for deciding whether you will like Skyscraper is whether you like the Fast and Furious movies, with which Skyscraper shares many characteristics, among them a surfeit of action coupled with a blissful lack of concern regarding plausibility, a diverse cast, interesting locations, and an endearing unpretentiousness that makes them enjoyable rather than ponderous.

Skyscraper, written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, stars (and I do mean stars—he seems to comprise about 75% of the picture) Dwayne Johnson as Will Sawyer, an ex-FBI agent now in the private security business. An old war buddy (Pablo Schreiber) arranges for him to meet with an architect (Chin Han) who needs someone to handle security for a new skyscraper called “the Pearl” in Hong Kong. It’s the tallest building in the world, because of course it is. Will gets the job and promptly moves his family into the otherwise-unoccupied high-rise, because nothing ever goes wrong in a new building, right?

We learn about ten minutes in that Pablo’s character is not to be trusted, although it’s not immediately clear what the end game is. Some very silly things happen, the building is set on fire, and somehow Will gets blamed for it. There’s actually a bit of interesting chemistry involved—the baddies spread something (probably an alkali metal) on the floor, then set off the sprinkler system, and the chemicals they spread react explosively with the water so that the sprinkler system actually makes things worse instead of putting out the fire. Many ridiculous stunts follow, and many guns are waved about, to the point where you might wonder if the original screenplay set the action in Texas rather than Hong Kong.

There are more than a few likeness to the original Die Hard in Skyscraper, including the need for our hero to save his wife (Neve Campbell, who is name-checked to be a surgeon but seems to have given it up) and two adorable kids (McKenna Roberts and Noah Cottrell) who are little more than plot points. The tiresome trope about surnames is thankfully omitted—the Sawyer family is the very picture of uncomplicated love and unity. There’s also a bearded baddie who might as well have been called Hans Gruber, and a very cute sidekick who seems determined to prove that the female is more deadly than the male.

Quote from other movies abound to the point where you may wonder if the screenplay was generated by a plot-o-matic, but they’re so much fun that it’s hard to bear a grudge on that account. My favorite is a shoot-em-up scene in a room full of high-tech security monitors that recall the hall of mirrors in The Lady from Shanghai.The rule of cool reigns, and Skyscraper is full of futuristic visual delights that, along with the unrelenting pace of the action, help distract you from the general silliness of the plot.

So that’s Skyscraper in a nutshell—it doesn’t offer much in the way of originality or deep thought, but checks all the boxes for a summer blockbuster, and will please those who like action and lots of it. One only hopes that when the inevitable sequels begin to arrive, some of this film’s unpretentiousness can be retained, and Dwayne Johnson can be persuaded to share the spotlight a bit more with his fellow actors. | Sarah Boslaugh

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