Skyscraper review: Hanging by a thread

Skyscraper

English (U/A)

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell

2 stars (out of five)

A hostage situation in Ash Lake, Minnesota, goes horribly wrong and the resulting explosion leaves FBI agent and negotiator Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) limbless, bleeding and barely alive as he looks up into the consoling eyes of Dr Sarah (Neve Campbell).

She intones the words "You're going to be alright" through the mist that is beginning to gather around him.

Ten years later, they are married, and raising a multicultural family to homespun wisdom such as "turn it off, and turn it on again" around phone failures. Both the bits in inverted commas turn out to be prophetic over the course of the film.

Sawyer is now a tukda-capitalist and runs a security firm. He brings family to Hong Kong, where he must vet safety features on tycoon Zhao Long Ji’s skyscraper project.

Alas, international bad guys are hard at work to make sure that Zhao's Pear ends up a costly, flaming chimney. Sawyer's family ends up being stuck in the building, and he must fight his way back to the inferno to save them.

There are three nice things one can hazard about this film. The crew behind this film do their best to make things as hard as possible for their hero, even if this means that poor Neve Campbell ends up duelling with his prosthetic limb for equal billing as best sidekick.

We get a bunch of free lessons in how to do jugaad with duct tape. Finally, our hero’s name is Will, and he spends a good part of the film hanging or falling from a burning building. The director can thus pat himself on the back for giving an entirely new spin to the idea of a Will-ing suspension of disbelief.

The entertaining thing about a film like this is that it allows you to eavesdrop on Hollywood sizing up the rest of the world.

Much careful algebra goes into making sure we see that there are good Asians and bad Asians — rinse and repeat for other nationalities. And yet all the bad guys have to have funny accents.

Another place where they slip up is in casting the exotic Hannah Quinlivan as a carefully-coiffed killer of many people. We barely learn her name, and her motivations are uncovered as a kind of erotic rapture in killing. When the Bond franchise got Famke Jennsen to play such a character, they at least bothered to give her the name Xenia Onatopp, and to play that idea for laughs.

Zhao and Sawyer share an intense bro moment that ends with the words "We'll rebuild", leaving us spying on an Asiatic happy ending for American capitalism.

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Skyscraper review: Hanging by a thread

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