Skyscraper

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 10/9/18;
Universal;
Action;
Box Office $67.8 million;
$24.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 3D BD, $44.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of gun violence and action, and for brief strong language.
Stars Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Møller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell.

Writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber pivots from comedies to action in this slick hybrid of the Die Hard and Towering Inferno formulas that provides plenty of excuses for Dwayne Johnson to run around and beat people up.

An added twist to the Johnson tough-man routine this time around is that his character is an amputee — a former FBI agent who lost a leg during a hostage negotiation gone wrong in the film’s opening scene.

Cut to 10 years later and Johnson’s Will Sawyer character is now a security consultant for a new, mile-high skyscraper in Hong Kong. The top half of the building is mostly unpopulated since it’s so tall the developers are having trouble securing sufficient insurance to allow people to move into the residential floors, with Sawyer and his family the only residents aside from the owner in the penthouse suite.

An inspection by representatives of the insurance company thus gives some bad guys an opportunity to take control of the building and set it on fire as they carry out an agenda against the guy who built it.

As the plot unfolds around him, Sawyer learns his wife (Neve Campbell) and two children are still in the building, he embarks on a series of breathtaking action scenes to get to them, even as he’s being framed for sabotaging the building’s fire-suppression systems. (You can best believe Sawyer’s fake limb will make for a handy tool when the story requires it.)

The filmmakers have no qualms about any comparisons between this film and the original Die Hard. There’s even a jokey deleted scenes in which Sawyer ponders that his next step should be to call Bruce Willis.

What sets Skyscraper apart, to a degree, is the way the building itself becomes a character in the story — imbued with plenty of design quirks to aid in setting up a variety of action scenes. It even has a multi-leveled park halfway up so that Sawyer’s family can find themselves in the middle of a forest fire 2000 feet in the air.

The top-notch production design really gives the film a visual flair that is only enhanced by the film’s ability to get down and dirty with its characters. Campbell’s character in particular is allowed to evolve beyond the typical wife-in-distress role, given a military background that pays off as she holds her own in several fight scenes of her own.

Otherwise, though, the villains are mostly a cookie-cutter assortment of disposable henchmen inserted when needed into the story to provide more obstacles for the Sawyers to overcome.

The Bu-ray includes about 18-and-a-half minutes of traditional-style behind-the-scenes featurettes that focus on developing some of the key characters and finding the right actors to portray them. There’s also a cute story about how Thurber pitched the film to Johnson, with whom he previously worked on Central Intelligence.

Most of the details of the making of the film are revealed in a feature-length solo commentary from Thurber, who says he has envisioned making a movie like this since he was 8 (he’s 43 now).

The Blu-ray also includes more than 22 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, including a lot of excised exposition that offers more details about how the bad guys’ plan is supposed to work. These are fine to have on the record but ultimately would have worked against the pacing of an action film that ended up a tight hour and 42 minutes (which Thurber points out in optional commentary available with the scenes).

Also included with the deleted material are alternate versions of scenes involving the primary Hong Kong police characters in which they speak English in one version and Cantonese in the other. Thurber shot these scenes in both languages before deciding that having the Chinese characters speaking their native language better served the film.

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