If you're going to choose someone to tag team during a disaster, pick Dwayne Johnson.
In "Skyscraper," he nails outlandish feats and (spoiler alert) lives to see another day.
Hired to provide security advice for the world’s tallest building (in Hong Kong, no less), he finds himself hanging from a crane, powering through windows and, yes, walking along the outside edge of that 220-story building, duct tape wrapped on his hands.
He’s a tough old bird, but he hangs in because his wife (Neve Campbell) and children are stuck in the place (called The Pearl) when a fire breaks out. The fire is set by folks who want to take down the building’s owner, but they really need his tablet to do damage. They use the family against Johnson and, sure enough, he’s MacGyver, figuring out how to get them out of harm’s way.
Considering this concept has been handled many times before (most notably in “Die Hard”), it’s amazing director Rawson Marshall Thurber is able to find anything worth watching. Johnson, however, plays a pro who lost a leg while trying to diffuse a hostage situation. So, he has the prosthetic one to both complicate and ease his cat-and-mouse game.
Because we’re not really sure who’s the bad guy (could the owner actually be a cruel real estate mogul?), there isn’t as much buy-in. A last-minute explanation tries to clear all that up. But, really, this is The Rock scaling buildings just to get to a control panel that will help his family leave the building safely.
Campbell has a couple of nice moments and does her own bit of nail-biting as she and their asthmatic son climb across a makeshift bridge over certain death. She gives Johnson a nudge here and there, too, and has a medical past that comes in handy when it’s least expected.
Thurber gooses every scene with fast editing and driving music, making his take on “Towering Inferno” more immediate than it really is.
The wrinkle: A watering system is supposed to keep all the building’s floors safe, which means folks aren’t leaving even though it’s clear the 96th floor is ablaze.
That eliminates the need for residents racing down stairs and elevators but it does create a social media frenzy. Onlookers watch as Johnson positions the crane so he can take a running leap into a window.
Since this includes plenty of Asian good and bad guys, there’s a book’s worth of subtitles. The reading becomes so intense it’s often difficult to pay attention to the action.
Johnson, though, knows what he’s doing and doesn’t even think of letting go of a collapsing bridge while the family walks across.
He’s good with smoke and mirrors, too. But his real skill is turning duct tape into rescue gold.