Skyscraper: Hanging by a thread

“Skyscraper” is a film made in the wrong era.

If it was made in the 1990s, “Skyscraper” would fit right in during the heyday of gloriously terrible action films that would pick up a second life on basic cable like “Dante’s Peak” or “Cliffhanger.”

A clear homage to unfiltered, low-budget, high-octane thrill rides of the past, this is a movie every Steven Seagal and Jean Claude Van Damme fan will love and a film both Seagal and Van Damme would dream of starring in.

In their stead, “Skyscraper” boasts bankable action star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, an actor who has surpassed the need to reference his professional wrestling past in most performances. Yet here, Johnson’s long standing fighting credentials in and out of the ring are an asset throughout.

Johnson stars as a man who must rescue his family from a tall building while Eastern European villains attempt to steal something from behind the locked vault doors of the building’s Asian owner.

That it comes out on the 30th anniversary of “Die Hard” is by no mistake.

“Skyscraper” is a film that tries so hard to replicate the magic of John McTiernan’s 1980s classic that homage seems a trite, simplistic description.

The cinematic lovechild of the Bruce Willis action flick and Steve McQueen’s 1974 thriller “The Towering Inferno,” “Skyscraper” pulls no punches as it slingshots, fisticuffs and duct tapes its way into the hearts of 17-year-old boys and men who used to be 17-year-old boys across the country.

If this were in the hands of any other action star, “Skyscraper” would likely be found in the bargain bin of the straight to DVD section of your local grocery store or gas station. With Johnson, however, the ridiculous plot and borrowed action sequences have at least some semblance of originality.

The natural charisma he brings from his wrestling persona “The Rock” combined with Johnson’s humble humanity from his personal life meld into a convincing enough portrait of a man trying to save his family with little bloodshed. While other action heroes would rely on firearms prowess, the physicality Johnson delivers feels plausible in spite of how incredulous the circumstances get.

When he needs to be, Johnson becomes our last true action star.

The film is littered with an array of instantly forgettable performances that are quintessential action movie tropes.

What sets “Skyscraper” apart, even if just slightly, is a welcome return from 90s television star and “Scream” queen Neve Campbell, who impresses in limited screen time as Johnson’s wife, a former combat medic who can hold her own when called upon.

Writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber has made a living comedically with films like “Dodgeball” and “Central Intelligence,” but capably manages to craft a fun, albeit derivative popcorn flick with “Skyscraper.”

Certain moments within the film have real tension, especially as Johnson dangles from staggering heights time and again. Though action sequences lack the practical effects of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise or the visceral quality of the Jason Bourne films, there’s no shortage of entertainment value to be found.

To be sure, “Skyscraper” isn’t a good movie. In fact, the latest movie from “The Rock” is downright terrible.
….in all the best ways.

Infinitely re-watchable and a lighthearted spectacle of amusingly terrifying heights from start to finish, “Skyscraper” defines the notion of a film that’s far better than it has any right to be.

Whether we like it or not, it’s a film whose cinematic shelf life will far exceed a month-long stay at the box office.

Odds are good that televisions across America will stop down to make “Skyscraper” appointment viewing when it inevitably becomes a staple of a station like TNT or FX.

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